The Australian senate is investigating halal certification later this year, with an economics committee inquiry, led by conservative South Australian senator Cory Bernardi, looking at the “third party certification of food”.
The inquiry will look at organic, kosher, halal and genetically-modified foods, general food safety certification schemes and fees, labelling requirements and whether consumers are able “to make informed purchasing decisions”.
There’s been a major social media-led push against halal certification in the last few years, calling on consumers to boycott companies such as Vegemite and Nescafe.
Critics, including a number of federal MPs, claim the fees paid for halal certification are being used to fund terrorism, although authorities have found no evidence that these claims are true.
Senator Bernardi has labelled halal certification a “racket” but agriculture minister Barnaby Joyce has warned that it’s a critical $2 billion export market for Australia and without it, local food prices may rise.
In the lead up to the inquiry, the Senate committee is calling for submissions, and already more than 200 people have responded before the July 31 deadline.
A considerable number of the submissions are anonymous and many follow the rote talking points of anti-halal lobby groups, with claims that non-Muslims are being forced to pay more for their food because of this “underhand religious tax”.
Submission 53 says that organic food should carry a warning that says “There is no scientific evidence that there are any additional health benefits to consuming organic food over food grown in other ways”.
Kev Gilchrist, submission no. 207, sums up the sentiments of many submissions when he talks of “halal blackmailing”, boycotting halal products and calls for a ban on halal foods.
The most interesting take on the issue comes from an anonymous witch – they asked that their name be withheld “because witches still face both open hostility and ridicule in Australia” – who says ritually slaughtered meat needs to be properly labelled otherwise it’s messing with her magic and insulting her goddess.
Submission 50’s issue with kosher and halal foods is a lack of labelling is weakening the cosmic forces when she’s making her own ritual offerings.
While most businesses add certification symbols as a selling point, the witch claims they’ve introduced halal and kosher “by stealth” and she lodged a discrimination complaint about it.
“I was so angry and upset when I found out that my offerings had already been used in another religious ritual. I tried to file a discrimination complaint with the Equal Opportunity Commission of Western Australia but the description of religious discrimination is such that my situation fell outside of the strict definition and my complaint was dismissed,” the anonymous witch says.
Here’s an extract from her submission to the Senate:
I am a Pagan, specifically a Goddess worshipping Witch, so it was utterly devastating to find out that, without my informed consent, I’d been routinely sold meat where the animal had been slaughtered according to the rituals of an Abrahamic religion.
Thinking it was secular, I had been dedicating and offering it to my Goddess, which is important to my magic and my spiritual path. To dedicate and offer food to her that has been previously used in a religious ritual for another deity is an insult to my Goddess. It diminishes her energy, weakens my connection to her and thus my magic.
She goes on to say “whatever people’s opinion of my beliefs, as an Australian, I should have the right to peacefully practice my faith within my own home without interference. This practice of selling unlabelled ritually slaughtered meat and animal by-products took that right away from me.”
The witch concludes by saying all halal and kosher food “needs to be labelled as ritually slaughtered so that people of other religions can make a properly informed purchasing decision”.
Jedis have yet to make their views known on the issue.
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