Halal burgers are burgers that use meat and other ingredients that are in line with Islamic law. In order to be considered halal, the halal burger needs to contain no blood or pig-related products such as bacon. Apart from these exceptions, the burger can contain the usual variety of ingredients including mustard, ketchup, cheese and pickles.
Halal means “lawful” in Arabic and covers a wide range of Islamic laws. Those pertaining to slaughter are known as dhabiha. The meat used in halal burgers must come from animals that have had their throats slit and have been dedicated to the Islamic god, Allah. The animal is then left strung up so that it is bled dry. This act must be performed by a person of the book, meaning any Muslim, Jew, Christian and a few others such as Sabaeans.
The basic composition of the burger remains the same as before. The patty itself is made in the same way, but the burger company or the individual has gone to the time and expense of ensuring that not only is the meat thoroughly sourced and halal, but also that the machines and other products are not tainted with non-halal meat.
The consumption of halal food, including the halal burger, is not compulsory in Islam. If the option is there to eat a halal burger instead of non-halal versions, then the Muslim must, according to Islamic law, choose the halal burger. If, however, there are no halal burgers or other halal food available, then according to the Qur’an, it is no sin to eat non-halal burgers.
The move towards halal burgers has caused controversy in a number of countries including France and Britain. First and foremost, public officials in France have complained about the removal of bacon from menus and its replacement with turkey. This, they claim, is a violation of the freedom of choice of non-Muslims. Second, the halal method of slaughtering cattle to make the burgers is contrary to the British beliefs concerning animal rights and the fairest means of slaughtering cattle for meat. Animal welfare organizations have pointed out that dhabiha causes immense suffering to animals, but this is disputed by others and no resolution has been made on the issue.
Despite such protest, the halal burger has gained in popularity and other fast food products have become halal-friendly, too. This has been done to cater to the growing Muslim populations of a number of cities and to avoid calls of discrimination against Muslims. Whether a balance between the two or whether religious beliefs will win over animal rights remains to be seen.