Americans have a long history of rejecting coerced religion. From the Pilgrims who came for freedom of conscience to the colonists who decided that the free exercise of religion would be featured first in the Bill of Rights, the American claim to liberty has had religious freedom at its core.

That was then. Now, American shoppers seem oblivious to the fact that a strict religious code — highly objectionable to many — is being imposed upon the processing of American meat products.

Halal certification of American meat products has largely escaped notice.  Costco is one of America’s biggest lamb distributors in the United States, and all of Costco’s lamb is processed according to halal standards.  I

interviewed the corporate buyer for Costco’s meat, and he explained that Costco’s halal lamb wholesale purchases are not responsive to Muslim pressure; instead, they are driven by overriding economic factors.

To Costco’s credit, the big-box chain is one of the few honest outlets, and it does display the halal certification stamp on the back of shrink-wrapped packages.  When most of the world’s lamb is produced and processed in Australia and New Zealand — and when most of those plants have abandoned the practice of separate slaughterhouses in favor of accommodating the uncompromising demands of halal markets — it is easy to conclude that most of the lamb sold, even to large Western outlets, is halal-processed.

The controversial method of slaughter by slitting an animal’s jugular so that death occurs by “bleeding out” is often done without first stunning the animal.  Halal certification commissions have declared that cutting the jugular of an unconscious animal yields meat that is haram (unlawful or not permissible) according to sharia-based regulations.  These halal oversight committees in places like Britain now forbid stunning before halal slaughter.

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