According to the New York Times, “Conventional meat producers have been scrutinized and denounced for years by animal rights groups. Lately, that fire has been directed at some halal and kosher slaughterhouses in the United States and the United Kingdom that activists say have treated animals cruelly, as they are often killed while still conscious. In January, Belgium banned the Muslim and Jewish methods of ritual slaughter, saying they subjected animals to too much pain. Denmark did the same in 2014.”
Syed Raza and Jeanne Chilson-Raza, are the married owners of Hira Halal Meat, located near Houston, and say they want to help reverse any negative perceptions about their industry. According to the Times, their establishment looks “more like a petting zoo than an abattoir, providing a clean, welcoming setting for ritual slaughter to serve a sizable Muslim population.”
There are only eight halal slaughterhouses in Houston for over 80,000 Muslims. When Mr. Raza immigrated from Karachi, Pakistan, in 1980, he knew of only one butcher shoppe in the Houston area that sold halal meat. He says there was no place to perform qurbani, the killing of an animal during Eid al-Adha, the annual feast at the end of hajj.
The couple now raise and slaughter 6,000 – 7,000 animals a year, and charge about $240 apiece. On a typical day, according to the Times, “a customer selects an animal from a holding pen. The animal is then run down a long alleyway and into a small room where it is laid on a short rack. Mr. Raza, Ms. Chilson-Raza, an employee or the customer will chant, “Bismillah Allahu akbar,” which roughly translates to “In the name of Allah, Allah is greatest,” and with a sharp knife, slit the throat of the animal in a single motion.” The couple says that this is the least painful way to kill an animal and is according to Islamic law.
Regular customers say they can’t imagine life without the halal butcher shoppe. Nishaat Ali, a Houston homemaker, says she has “taken in my daughters and my son. It connects them to their religion. For me, it is priceless.”