Natural & Halal Farming – The Willowbrook Way

Natural & Halal Farming – The Willowbrook Way

One of the places we source our meat is from is Willowbrook Farm in Oxford. To help you get a little bit of insight as to how the Willowbrook family farm we thought we’d share some of their beliefs and principles which shape the way they work. Some of the following text is also present on their website and can be viewed here: http://www.willowbrookfarm.co.uk/what-halal

 

Our principles

As a Muslim family we derive our principles for farming from the concepts of halal/halaal and tayib/tayyib (purity and wholesomeness). This means we adopt a holistic approach to all aspects of food production, from the soil to the consumer. We keep our flock of sheep at a naturally sustainable and manageable stocking level, meaning they have plenty of access to their fresh grass and hay. Even in our non-organic produce, we still strive to meet the highest standards: using no chemicals, or hormones on our livestock or on our pasture.

Unlike many farmers rearing large numbers of comercial fast growing birds we choose to rear traditional natural breeds of chicken in small mobile poultry units again with permanent access to their pasture. Our principles are informed by the desire to farm naturally, organically and sustainably:

    • To treat livestock ethically, meeting their physiological and behavioural needs
    • To maintain the long term fertility and biological activity of soils
    • To foster biodiversity and protect sensitive habitats and landscape features
    • To maximise use of renewable sources and recycling
    • To minimise pollution and waste
    • To develop ecologically responsible production, processing and distribution chains, emphasising local systems

What is Halal and Tayib and why are they linked?

Halal literally means ‘acceptable’ or ‘sanctified’. But the concept of halal food goes further than the literal meaning and is used in the Quran in conjunction with the word ‘tayib’, meaning pure, healthy or natural.
Chapter 5:4 “They ask you what is lawful (halal) for them. Say “what is pure and natural (tayib) is lawful (halal) for you”. 
We believe the raising of our animals is just as important as the dispatch, we rear our animals in a welfare friendly and environmentally sustainable manner.

 

So why choose Organic?

Unfortunately much of the mass produced food we can buy so cheaply fails to meet the true standards of halal or tayyib food. The simple act of of thanking God at the point of slaughter cannot forgive a lifetime of suffering and abuse to the animals we consume.

The principles of organic and free range farming represent the traditional methods of working in harmony with nature to produce top quality healthy produce. Organic production requires that no chemicals are used, either in the production of the animals, or the feed they consume. This includes not using medication other than natural organic remedies.

 

Why Free Range?

Free range refers to the provision of access to open pasture for animals during daylight hours. It is worth noting that natural breeds such as the chickens we rear are able to take advantage of such conditions whereas the standard commercial breeds (e.g. Ross Cobs) have no natural inclination to take advantage of a natural environment and will be unlikely to move more than a few meteres in their whole unnatural life. However, you could be unknowingly buying these varieties in supermarkets under the label Free Range or Organic.

Organic and Free Range are both labels that only scratch the surface of natural, ethical farming methods. We do our best to meet the highest standards, whilst still making a compromise to keep our prices as low as possible.

 

How do you dispatch your animals?

We kill all of our poultry personally on the farm, individually and by hand, with a minimum stun which does not kill or cause any lasting damage to the animals. For our lamb and beef we use a small local halal abattoir. We have personally witnessed their use of the stun on our lambs and beef and we are satisfied that a minimum stun is used before slaughter and the bleed out is immediate and full. We have known the slaughterman for a number of years and we are satisfied the process is conducted responsibly.

 

Is stunning acceptable?

In most UK abattoirs there is considerable suffering for animals which are agitated and stressed by the mass slaughter process. To allow the slaughter of these animals without pacifying them could be considered unacceptable (haram). It can be argued, that under these conditions stunning is more humane.
There is a consensus of scholars that stunning is not forbidden and is acceptable provided it is not the cause of death.
Similarly under current UK law, animals must be killed by severance of the carotid arteries, not by the stun.  So in theory there is little dividing UK legislation and halal slaughter methods.  Both require the animal to be calm and slaughtered by incision.  There is, of course, the additional prayer of gratitude offered by a Muslim slaughterman.
It should be noted that the use of stun simply masks the real problem and sidesteps the necessary changes (such as reducing the size and layout of abattoirs). Our personal view, after witnessing both sides of the argument, is that the abattoirs we now use with the safeguards and practices they put in place, provide the best possible option for us, at present.

 

Are you certified Halal?

We have, since our inception as the first halal and tayib farm in the UK, been able to obtain a reputation in the UK and abroad as providers of high quality, natural and halal produce. Our guarantee is a very personal one where our customers take responsibility for their own choices and have a direct connection with the source of their food.
Halal monitoring bodies do not look at the animal’s life, which means an animal can be raised in appalling factory conditions but still get halal certification. Furthermore even in the slaughter, both the HMC and the HFA, do not stipulate requirements to mitigate the litany of welfare abuses during the transportation and mass slaughter of the animals and they approve large scale abattoir slaughter processes (including mechanical slaughter in the case of the HFA). As a result we do not seek their certification.

 


 

If you have any questions about their farming process and ethics, please get in touch with them by email.