A Muslim slaughterman’s attempts to discredit the New Zealand meat industry have drawn the attention of the country’s spy service.
Meat Industry Association members said they were contacted by the Security Intelligence Service (SIS) this week after Ahmed Ghanem, an Egyptian-born halal slaughterman now living in Christchurch, published articles on a British website decrying New Zealand slaughter methods as inhumane and contrary to Islamic practice.
Ghanem said he and other anti-stunning activists in the Muslim world had successfully sought a fatwa, or religious ruling, from senior clerics condemning the practice.
Meat industry figures in New Zealand have called Ghanem a “troublemaker”.
They fear his comments could affect the multimillion-dollar industry, particularly in the Gulf states, where New Zealand has extensive markets.
Meat Industry Association management support officer Michael Pran said Ghanem could provoke Muslim states such as Malaysia and Indonesia to send inspectors to review New Zealand methods.
“He could scare people and that could harm the industry,” he said. “The SIS are on his case. They are looking at it as well.”
The SIS could not be contacted for comment yesterday.
Its website lists “protecting New Zealand from threats to our international and economic wellbeing” as one of its tasks.
Ghanem’s essay, published online at unstunnedhalal.com said New Zealand methods, which involve stunning animals with electrodes before slaughter, violated Islamic codes.
Halal slaughter stipulates an animal must be killed by one fast cut to the neck so the animal bleeds to death.
It must face Mecca, and the slaughterman must evoke the name of God by saying “Bismallah Allahu Akbar”.
Ghanem told The Press that in his time as a slaughterman, animals often reached his knife already dead from the stunning procedure, which was akin to eating carrion and therefore non-halal.
Many of the animals would not bleed when cut and the rate of killing up to eight a minute did not allow sufficient time for religious observances.
“Where is the respect for the animal? You don’t have time,” he said.
When he took his concerns to his employers he was fired, he said.
Ghanem said he and other anti-stunning activists had sought a fatwa from influential Egyptian Muslim scholar and cleric Yusuf al-Qaradawi, who ruled against the process.
Ghanem’s former employer, New Zealand Islamic Meat Management director Dr Mohammed Abdel-Al, said Ghanem’s comments could have a serious impact on New Zealand’s exports and needed to be discredited.
“If you’ve got a twisted branch, you’ve got to cut it,” he said.
Abdel-Al said stunning livestock before slaughter was a legal requirement in New Zeal-and.
Stunning made the animal docile and reduced danger to the slaughterman, Abdel-Al said.
He said Ghanem worked for his company briefly but was “let go” after becoming aggressive with his plant manager over his concerns.
An industry paper released to The Press said it was “conceivable that in rare instances animals could be harmed or even killed by electrical stunning”.
“In any such case, it would be the responsibility of the Muslim slaughterman to identify such an animal,” it said.