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The Challenge of Lab-Grown Meat among Muslims and Jews

While efforts to produce meat from stem cells in laboratories are increasingly being given much attention due to the growing population of the world and food producers in Muslim and Jewish markets are facing the challenge of ḥalāl and kosher meat.

Meat for Muslims, according to Islamic laws, must be the product of religious slaughter.

This law, like some of the other Islamic laws, existed in Judaism thousands of years ago, albeit in different ways.

Along with advances in stem cell technology, the production of red and white meat in laboratories has become both possible and commercial in recent years.

According to a recent report in Bloomberg, while numerous Israeli companies have already begun work on the technology, a group of Jewish rabbis around the world are trying to find a way to make Lab-Grown meat legal (kosher) by interpreting religious sources.Orthodox communities, on the other hand, are largely opposed to the use of such meat.

The “Eat Just” startup in the United States succeeded in exporting laboratory-produced chicken nuggets to the Muslim-majority country of Singapore in 2020.This process is expected to continue this year with the export of laboratory-produced chicken breast meat.

Although government authorization has been granted for the sale and consumption of this product in Singapore, the Islamic Council of the country, the official issuer of the fatwā, says that Lab-Grown meat is a new issue and it will take time to reach a conclusion on whether it is ḥalāl or ḥarām. The “Eat Just” company also wants to set up a Lab-Grown meat production line in Qatar, but this requires the permission of government officials from religious authorities.

In Indonesia, the most populous Muslim country in the world, the story is much more complicated than in Singapore and Qatar. In September, Nihḍat al-ʿUlamāʾ, the traditional authority for issuing fatwās in this southeast Asian country, issued a statement (fatwā) that Lab-Grown meat cell is obtained from the carcass, which is impure (najis).Therefore, such meat cannot be ḥalāl.

In Pakistan, the second most populous Muslim country, Mohammad Taqi Osmani one of the great Sunnī scholars issued a fatwā stating that Lab-Grown meat is ḥalāl only if it is produced from a legally slaughtered animal cell. This answer, however, does not work in many cases, because the producers usually take the stem cell from the living animal, not from the slaughtered animal.

The Ruling of Laboratory-Produced Meat from the Point of View of the Shīʻah Scholars

Although the issue of deriving a new ruling is likely to be a difficult and time-consuming challenge for Sunnī scholars, it has already been resolved among Shīʻah scholars. For example, Āyatullāh Makārem-Shīrāzī, in response to a question, replied: “If the meat [the basic meat of the stem cell preparation] was made with ḥalāl substances and its eating is not significantly harmful, there is no problem.”

This difference is a pre-existing issue between Shīʻah and Sunnī jurisprudence and is mainly based on the principles of deriving Islamic rulings.

Probably, one of the most interesting cases of this kind is the permissibility of drinking non-alcoholic beer, with the jurisprudential name of ʼ al-shaʻīr, among the Shīʻahs, and the prohibition of this beer among the Sunnīs, especially in the Muslim countries of North Africa.

While Shīʻah scholars, relying on reason (ʿaql), consider the non-alcoholic of māʼ al-shaʻīr to be the reason for its permission to drink it, Sunnī clerics forbid its consumption by relying on analogy and discovering similarities between non-alcoholic beer and fermented beer (alcoholic beer).

About Ali Teymoori

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