MONTREAL – Plans by Quebec’s minister of agriculture to tighten up regulations for the production of halal and kosher meat have angered the religious minorities in the east-central Canada district, seeing them as unnecessary.
"For the past 15 centuries, the standards for the animals' welfare have already been established," Mohamed Ghalem, Quebec's Halal Meat Association spokesman, was reported by Montreal radio station CJAD.
"I think this misunderstanding is related to Islamophobia."
Quebec Muslims and Jews have expressed concerns over the past week after Quebec’s agricultural minister announced his plans to tighten regulations for kosher and halal meat production.
“We want the slaughter to happen in the most complete conditions of hygiene and cleanliness,” Francois Gendron said in comments reported last week.
Gendron said he would announce a plan for new regulations this fall.
The minister's spokeswoman confirmed that the ministry is still working on the new regulation, but she doesn't reveal when it will be released.
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) is responsible for overseeing livestock slaughter regulations across the nation.
Therefore, the province could only impose regulations on smaller slaughterhouses that do not export outside of the province.
Along with Muslims, the new procedure has angered Quebec’s Jews, arguing that new regulations for kosher meat production were 'unnecessary'.
“The CFIA has one of the highest standards of food processing,” Dovid Russ, COO of the major Canadian kosher meat operation Mehadrin, told JTA on Wednesday, October 30.
“Quebec is trying to get more involved for absolutely no reason whatsoever.”
The concept of halal, -- meaning permissible in Arabic -- has traditionally been applied to food.
Muslims should only eat meat from livestock slaughtered by a sharp knife from their necks, and the name of Allah, the Arabic word for God, must be mentioned.
Muslim scholars agree that Shari`ah provides a divine law of mercy that should be applied on all Allah’s creations, including animals.
Islam also provides details about avoiding any unnecessary pain.
Amid growing controversy, halal food was growing into a flourishing business in Quebec district.
“Halal slaughter is on the rise and it is to the good fortune of Quebec and Canadian businesses,” Ghalem, Quebec's Halal Meat Association spokesman, said.
“I've seen slaughterhouses that were on the brink of bankruptcy and did not close thanks to this niche market.”
Quebec controls between 20-25 slaughterhouses and at least five of them produce Halal meat, the Agriculture ministry said.
Recently, Quebec has been the home of religious debates since the proposal of the controversial Parti Québécois charter which claims protecting state secularism by prohibiting public-sector workers from wearing religious symbols in workplaces such as schools, hospitals and daycares.
The ban would affect everyone from government workers and doctors to teachers and daycare workers.
Muslims make around 2.8 percent of Canada's 32.8 million population, and Islam is the number one non-Christian faith in the north American country.
A survey has showed the overwhelming majority of Muslims are proud to be Canadian.
In a recent poll, most for the Quebeckers were found not concerned about religious accommodations.
Though it has the second largest Muslim population in Canada, the east-central province of Quebec is one of the most Islamophobic provinces in the country, where Muslims are facing different kinds of discrimination and racism.
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