The Government says it's looking into whether halal butcheries should be allowed to open during lockdown so they can cater to New Zealand's Muslim communities.
Butcheries and bakeries are supposed to be closed under level four restrictions, but some suppliers of halal meats, like Auckland butcher Shafeel Khan, say their customers can't buy from anywhere else.
Mr Khan says he told his customers not to stock up before the lockdown as he was sure he would be classed as an essential business, but he’s now having to turn them away after a visit from police.
“Yesterday around 1pm a police officer came and notified me all butchers are classified as non-essential, I’d have to close down immediately,” Mr Khan said.
“He felt very saddened he had to come and close me down… basically what he said to me was that I had to serve the last few customers and close up the shop until further notice.”
Countdown says it does not sell halal-certified meat and Kiwi Muslims 1 NEWS spoke to say there is very little available at other supermarkets.
Some also say there’s no guarantee that supermarket halal meat is 100 per cent halal because it is stored and transported alongside non-halal products.
Auckland shopper Sister Jannah Pritchard says Kiwi Muslims are too wary to buy meat from supermarkets, even if it was available.
“A lot of brothers and sisters in my Muslim community, they won't buy from big chain stores, they want to buy from places that are purely halal," she said.
Another would-be customer, Imraan Ali says it’s particularly important for Kiwis to access halal meat in the lead up to the holy month of Ramadan, which starts on April 23rd in New Zealand.
“The lockdown could extend, we're going into month of Ramadan which will make it more difficult for the Muslim community,” Mr Ali said.
“I’ve been in West Auckland for 25 years and have never purchased meat at the supermarket, the reason for that is we know it's 100 per cent halal here (at this butcher).
"There’s no risk of food contamination with non-halal food, that’s a really critical part of our beliefs.”
According to the Federation of Islamic Associations of New Zealand, the only meat devout Muslims can consume from New Zealand supermarkets is fish.
It says under Islamic law, the following rules apply for meat to be considered halal
- That the animal has been killed with a sharp knife
- That it’s throat is cut ensuring the severance of the oesophagus and the jugular veins.
- That only Allah’s name is mentioned at the time of the slaughtering and no other name is associated.
- Shaimud Khan runs one of only two halal butcheries in the Wellington region, and his is the only one that remains open during the lockdown.
He says he’s been closed for the last two days, but opened today for phone orders because of overwhelming customer demand.
“The only reason we opened today was because of the demand from the local Muslim community, particularly refugees and people who have recently migrated,” Mr Khan said.
He says he’s applied to be considered as an essential business, but will close if he’s visited by police.
“We are strictly on a phone order basis only so people have to pre-order before they come in and they just come in, they collect and they leave.
"There’s very minimal interaction between people and staff and customers.”
He said the provision of halal meats isn’t just important for Muslims.
“It’s important not just for Muslims but for the Jewish community as well as a lot of orthodox Christians, they only eat halal meat so that’s why it’s important for us to stay open.”
The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment says it’s looking into halal butcheries.
“The Government has been closely monitoring how the Essential Services requirements have been operating since they were introduced and we have been listening to feedback and making changes as we go where necessary,” an MBIE spokesperson told 1 News.
“We signalled from the beginning that what constitutes an essential service or business may change during this period of shutdown.”
A Countdown spokesperson told 1 NEWS while the supermarket doesn’t sell halal certified meat, it’s in talks with the Ministry for Primary Industries about how it can help.
“We’re really aware of how difficult it must be for customers seeking halal-certified meat during the lockdown.”
“There are some really significant challenges for any supermarket to overcome to ensure the integrity of halal is maintained end-to-end throughout the supply chain and in stores.”
In her daily press conference yesterday, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said it was important for small businesses to stick to the rules.
“I know this is a very difficult time for small businesses our butchers, our bakers, our grocers, they are providing, generally, food services for their community, but if every single one of them opened up across the country, it defeats the point," she said.
"It opens up a huge chain of transmission, so I’m asking them to do right by their communities, and to close.”
Foodstuffs didn’t respond to request for comment.