animal welfare

Is it time more Muslims turned to veganism?

By: Nadia Kadry

“It’s haram to be vegetarian, you’re denying what Allah has made permissible for you.”

This is a complaint I receive from family members when I am vocal about eating less meat. Whilst eating halal tayyib meat is permissible in Islam, there are compelling arguments made that adopting a vegan, vegetarian, or semi-vegetarian diet is more in accordance with the Prophetic tradition and Islamic principles than the current daily meat eating culture amongst many Muslim communities.

We can look directly to the diet of the Prophet (pbuh) who reportedly only ate meat occasionally, to support maintaining at least a semi-vegetarian diet today. It is a forgotten Sunnah of our beloved Prophet (pbuh) to keep meat consumption minimal, treating it as a luxury rather than a daily necessity. During his caliphate, Umar ibn al Khattab (ra) prohibited people from eating meat two days in a row, warning that meat has “has an addiction like the addiction of wine.” We can see a huge divergence when we compare many Muslim majority cultures’ meat eating habits to that of the Prophet’s (pbuh).

Eating lawfully and wholesomely

 “O mankind, eat from earth what is halal (lawful) and tayyib (good/wholesome)…” (Holy Quran 2:168)

From a strictly religious standpoint, for meat to be considered halal tayyib and therefore permissible, the process needs to meet requirements beyond what many understand as halal as the draining of the blood and the recitation of Allah’s name at the time of slaughter. The other requirements needed for meat to be tayyib and thus lawful to eat, are less known.

The animal must be raised in a humane and wholesome environment, be fed and given water prior to slaughter, and not be stressed, abused or mishandled, nor witness another animal being killed, among other requirements. The reality is that most of today’s meat, even when labeled “halal,” comes from battery farms where the animals endure cramped conditions and cruel and inhumane practices and are injected with harmful steroids and hormones.

Animal welfare is essential in Islam with the Prophet (pbuh) often preaching that animals be treated with the utmost compassion, mercy and kindness. There is thus a stark contrast between Islam’s stated animal ethics and the poor conditions that thousands of mass-farmed animals endure everyday. It is worth wondering whether the Prophet (pbuh), who would curse the one who mistreated an animal would approve of such practices.

Environmental effects of meat production

“Do not pollute the earth after it has been (so) wholesomely (set in order) …” (Holy Quran 7:56)

Animal agriculture reportedly accounts for 51% of global greenhouse gas emissions, with no other single human activity having a greater impact on the planet. This is unsurprising when you think about all the land, vegetation, energy and water required for raising animals for consumption, especially considering our growing population and appetites. Eating meat is a hugely inefficient transfer of energy, as the amount of food the world’s cattle consumes is reportedly equal to the caloric needs of 8.7 billion people.

This illustrates the huge inequality our food systems sustain, as grains that could nourish those in poverty are being used to feed livestock to then be consumed by wealthier people. The increased demand for grains puts humans in competition with animals and drives the price for these grains up, further compounding the global food crisis.

Humans are the successors of the Earth

“And it is He (Allah) who has made you successors upon the earth…” (Holy Quran 6:165)

The natural world is a fundamental part of Islam; the whole of earth has been created a place of worship for us and the Qur’an glorifies nature and wildlife frequently. The Qur’an tells us that we were appointed as stewards on Earth, and thus have a duty to protect our planet, Allah’s creation, from environmental degradation. This includes protecting against the mass deforestation that the meat industry requires and thus protecting the habitats of much wildlife. More importantly, we need to recognize the impact of global greenhouse gas emissions on our fellow humans, mostly those in the global south who disproportionately suffer the effects of climate change whilst contributing the least.

Reviving our relationship with the environment

“…Eat and drink from the provision of Allah, and do not commitabuse on the earth, spreading corruption” (Holy Quran 2:60)

Following the principles of our religion, we ought to reevaluate and revive our relationship with the environment and consider how our diets, among other things, impact the earth and other people. I will be the first to admit that a transition to a more ethical and meat-free diet is difficult and requires time, thought, and money, which is a luxury not everyone has.

Conversations about the environment, animal welfare, our health and reviving the Sunnah of the Prophet (pbuh) need to be started which can help enable a cultural shift amongst Muslim communities in the way we view and eat meat and our participation in harmful food systems. This need not involve shaming anyone’s diets or lifestyles, but rather in showing the perfect harmony a vegetarian diet has with Islam’s principles in the modern day.

“The point is to live consciously and intentionally—to walk on the path of continual, voluntary self-surrender, for this is what it means to be in Islam. First for the Creator, then for our own spiritual development, for the good of the beings we share this world with, and for the continued health of this delicate world itself.” – Ezra Ereckson

On a practical level, we can make greater effort to lessen our meat consumption to a couple of times a week, month or year. This can involve designating a specific day a week to eating meat. Where possible and affordable, one should buy organic and locally sourced foods, which extends beyond meat and animal products. Ultimately, we need to become more conscious of the way we live and eat and try to keep in accordance with the ethics of Islam.

This article originally appeared on The Muslim Vibe on October 20th, 2016. 

It's Time We Treat Chickens as Animals and Not Products


By: Ziyaad Mia,

"The day may come, when the rest of the animal creation may acquire those rights which never could have been withholden from them but by the hand of tyranny...The question is not, 'Can they reason?' nor, 'Can they talk?' but, 'Can they suffer?'"

Jeremy Bentham (1748 - 1832) Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation

Have you ever considered a chicken? Not as a nugget, kebab or omelet, but as a creature that has needs, feels pain and suffers.

The Commodity Bird

Chicken and eggs have been commodified by our desire for cheap plentiful meat and eggs; indeed, the word "chicken" has become the name of a product rather than that of an animal. More than 50 billion chickens are raised for meat and eggs worldwide annually, with about 10 billion of them in North America. In fact, chickens represent the overwhelming majority of agricultural animals in North America.

Nearly all North American chickens are raised and slaughtered in industrial operations. Despite the slick marketing, they do not live in bucolic bliss, roaming sunny meadows, dust-bathing and roosting in rustic sheds. Most chickens raised for meat, known as broilers, are engineered to grow rapidly in crowded barns with tens of thousands of other birds. The vast majority of hens producing our eggs spend their lives crammed, with several other birds, into small "battery" cages. The factory chicken's life is far removed from bucolic bliss.

Peeking Inside the Factory Farm

Despite the animal industry's scale, it's remarkable that the plight of billions of animals is largely invisible to us. Recently, we got a glimpse into that invisible world through a Mercy for Animals Canadavideo aired on CTV's W5 [caution: video is disturbing]. Their investigation shows chickens at Maple Lodge Farms' slaughterhouse near Toronto arriving frozen to death, handled roughly, shackled inappropriately for slaughter and possibly scalded alive.

The company responded saying, "the humane treatment of the birds in our care is a very high priority, and a moral responsibility, that we take seriously."

The video, and Maple Lodge's track record, tell a starkly different story.

Expressions of concern and moral responsibility ring hollow in light of the company's convictions in 2013 and 2014 on 20 counts of failing to humanely transport chickens to slaughter (chickens froze to death in sub-zero winter conditions). The judge found that profits trumped animal welfare. Despite the convictions, Maple Lodge continued breaking the law making the Canadian Food Inspection Agency's "Animal Transportation Repeat Violators" list on numerous occasions in 2014.

The Spin Machine

The animal industry's spin doctors follow the same script when caught in the act:

  1. claim high standards of animal welfare;
  2. suggest that incidents are exceptions to the high standards; and
  3. say that quick corrective action will be taken.

The egg and the pork industries deployed this crisis management model when we got a glimpse into their hidden worlds too.

This talk track suggests that the industry cares about animals and any horrors exposed are simply aberrations by a few "bad apples." While particularly heinous acts of cruelty occur in industrial farming, it's fallacious to use those incidents to conclude that, on the whole, the system is sound.

Rather, the problem is the system itself because it creates conditions where animal suffering can easily become commonplace and routine. When billions of animals are systematically raised and killed a reasonable person may assume that widespread suffering is inevitable.

Maple Lodge Farms slaughters about 500,000 chickens daily. One can easily imagine the stress on animals and workers in such an environment, some of which is depicted in the Mercy for Animals video.

"Each employee is expected to hang 20 birds a minute...So employees are hanging birds as fast as they can to keep up. So it's being grabbed pretty violently. Sometimes you'll see bones protruding out of the skin, you see toes ripped off. It's pretty horrific." ~ from CTV W5

The Business of Chicken

Chicken is a big business. Each year we consume more than 650 million of the birds in Canada. Given those numbers and the significant profits involved, it's no wonder that relatively small fines don't reform bad behaviour. Arguably, fines are just a cost of doing business.

Although it may be business as usual behind the scenes, the companies know thatconsumers care about animal welfare. That's why many of them humane-wash their products by extolling the virtues of animal welfare, and portraying happy animals on idyllic family farms. In this regard, Animal Justice Canada is challenging Maple Lodge Farms for allegedly using false advertising and claims.

Halal meat is also a growing and lucrative market. That's likely why companies like Maple Lodge prominently market their halal products in Canada's Muslim communities. The company reportedly slaughters tens of thousands of chickens a day, at an industry average rate of about 140 chickens a minute, to produce its halal products.

Factory farming raises troubling questions in light of Islamic ethics, which requires significantly more than perfunctory ritualized killing of animals used for food. Islam mandates merciful and compassionate treatment of all animals at all times, from birth to death. Therefore, many common practices in factory farms (where animals are raised) and industrial slaughterhouses (where animals are killed) are inconsistent with those ethical requirements.

Jeremy Bentham would agree with Islamic law and ethics, which says animal interests matter and humans have duty to seriously consider them. A genuine halal standard that is holistic, substantive and true to Islamic ethics would be a positive development for animals and consumers. Unfortunately, we lack credible, transparent and robust halal standards and certification.

A Better World for All

The virtual hell created for tens of billions of animals by factory farming is one of the greatest moral issues of our time. Yet, our desire for cheap, plentiful animal products and the corporate interest in profits above all else have conspired to keep the plight of countless sentient beings in the dark. Regrettably, our politicians and religious leaders remain largely silent, while the legal system stymies efforts by those who try to give animals a voice.

Positive change requires us to take animal interests seriously in the all the choices we make, as consumers, citizens and human beings. Those choices are the crucial first steps towards a just society built on compassion, dignity and respect for all creatures.

This article was originally featured on Huffington Post Canada in April 2015. To follow his blog, please visit: 

Ziyaad Mia is a Toronto lawyer active in human rights, national security, animal welfare and civic issues. He is also an adjunct professor at Osgoode Hall Law School. Ziyaad is the founder of Give 30, which is an innovative Ramadan-based social initiative designed to mobilize people of all faiths and moral persuasions on a grassroots level in the fight against hunger.

Ziyaad is the winner of CBC's Canada Writes Literary Challenge Award (2014 - "Stories of Belonging") and was shortlisted for CBC's Canada Writes Literary Challenge Award (2011 - "True Winter Tales"). His writing has appeared in the Toronto Star, Globe and Mail, Ottawa Citizen and Vancouver Sun.

Photo Credit: kusabi

Islam and Animal Rights


By: Luyfiyah Suliman

All living beings – humans, birds, animals, insects etc – are worthy of consideration and respect. Islam has always viewed animals as a special part of God's creation. Mankind is responsible for whatever it has at its disposal, including animals whose rights must be respected. The Holy Qur'an, the Hadith, and the history of Islamic civilization offer many examples of kindness, mercy, and compassion for animals. According to Islamic principles, animals have their own position in the creation hierarchy and humans are responsible for their well-being and food.

Islam strongly asks Muslims to treat animals with compassion and not to abuse them. The Holy Qur'an states that all creation praises God, even if this praise is not expressed in human language. Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) often chastised his Companions who mistreated animals, and spoke to them about the need for mercy and kindness.

Holy Quran and Animal Welfare

The Holy Quran contains many examples and directives about how Muslims should treat animals. The Quran describes that animals form communities, just as humans do:

"There is not an animal that lives on the earth, nor a being that flies on its wings, but they form communities like you. Nothing have we omitted from the Book, and they all shall be gathered to their Lord in the end"(Quran 6:38).

The Quran further describes animals, and all living things, as Muslim - in the sense that they live in the way that Allah created them to live, and obey Allah's laws in the natural world.

“Seest thou not that it is Allah Whose praise all beings in the heavens and on earth do celebrate, and the birds (of the air) with wings outspread? Each one knows its own (mode of) prayer and praise, and Allah knows well all that they do.” (Quran 24:41)

"And the earth, He has assigned it to all living creatures" (Quran 55:10).

Animals are living creatures with feelings and connections to the larger spiritual and physical world. We must consider their lives as worthwhile and cherished.

"And the earth, He has assigned it to all living creatures" (Quran 55:10).

These verses serve as a reminder to us that wildlife, like humans, are created with purpose. They have feelings and are part of the spiritual world. They too have a right to life, and protection from pain and suffering.

Ahadith and Rights of Animals

Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) exhorted Muslims to show kindness and compassion towards animals and birds, and repeatedly forbade cruelty towards animals.

"Whoever is merciful even to a sparrow, Allah will be merciful to him on the Day of Judgment."

“A good deed done to an animal is like a good deed done to a human being, while an act of cruelty to an animal is as bad as cruelty to a human being."

The Messenger of Allah (SAW) once passed by a camel that was so emaciated that its back had almost reached its stomach. He said, "Fear Allah in these beasts who cannot speak." (Abu Dawud)

Humans were created by Allah, the Almighty, to be custodians and guardians of the Earth. Killing without need- that is killing for fun- is not permissible.

The Companions said,”O Allah’s Messenger! Is there a reward for us in serving the animals?” He replied: “There is a reward for serving any living being.” (Bukhari)

A group of Companions were once on a journey with the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, and he left them for a while. During his absence, they saw a bird with its two young, and they took the young ones from the nest. The mother bird was circling above in the air, beating its wings in grief, when the Prophet came back. He said, "Who has hurt the feelings of this bird by taking its young? Return them to her." (Muslim)

In Islam, hunting for sport is prohibited. Muslims may only hunt as is needed to meet their requirements for food. This was common during the time of the Prophet Muhammad, and he condemned it at every opportunity.

Few Points to Ponder

We need to seriously ask ourselves – is the Muslim community upholding the rights of animal despite explicit orders from Allah (SWT) and the Prophet (SAW)? What should our role be, not only in the debate on such subjects, but in conservation and protection of animals and the environment as a whole? Have we disenfranchised wildlife? How do the laws of the country in which we live stand up to the Islamic principles? And finally, how does Islam help us to find solutions to the dilemmas we face?

It is not impossible to demand greater action and consideration for the natural world. Bolivia has gone as far as to legally grant nature equal rights with humans and has introduced the Law of Mother Earth which reportedly assigns 11 new rights to nature, including: ‘the right to life and to exist; the right to continue vital cycles and processes free from human alteration; the right to pure water and clean air; the right to balance; the right not to be polluted; and the right to not have cellular structure modified or genetically altered.’ Ecuador has also changed its constitution to give nature "the right to exist, persist, maintain and regenerate its vital cycles, structure, functions and its processes in evolution".

These laws are considered radical, but what it enshrines does not ask for much, indeed only that animals, and nature are given equal respect and care- as much as is expected of us in Islam. Individuals and governments have an important role to play in educating the public animal welfare and establishing institutions to support animal well-being.

Lutfiyah Suliman is a Master of Science student at the University of the Witwatersrand in South Africa and the Media representative for Green Deen South Africa. Her research delves into the impact and influence of journalism and the media industry on environmental science communication. Lutfiyah’s interests lie in environmental communication, education and policy. For queries related to the content and media aspect of Green Deen please email at

This article was originally published on EcoMENA on February 25th, 2014. 

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