Ethical, organic, safe: the other side of halal food

By Carla Power

In the Cherwell valley, on a quiet country lane just outside Oxford, lies a pioneer outpost of Britain’s halal food industry. Beside the swells of green where the Cotswolds begin is Willowbrook Farm, where Lutfi and Ruby Radwan and their five children raise animals as the Qur’an and the prophet Muhammad intended. For the Radwans, that means organically and sustainably. Chickens strut under silver birch and wild cherry trees. Sheep and goats chew chemical-free grass, and nose around wildflower meadows. When it is time for slaughter, each animal will – in accordance with Islamic law – have the name of God pronounced over it before dispatch. Invoking Allah before killing an animal is simply “acknowledging a spirituality behind all material existence”, observes Ruby. “It takes you back to humans being stewards of God’s Earth.”

The Radwans, both London-raised, aren’t from farming stock. Lutfi started his career as a geography don at Oxford and a development consultant; Ruby was a teacher and alternative healer. In 2002, disenchanted with both urban academic life and the halal meat on offer, they bought 45 acres, planted thousands of saplings where there had been wheat stubble, and began raising sheep, goats and chickens. Today, they sell their produce online from a small farm shop, as well as offering open days, camping and concerts. On a recent afternoon during lambing season, a neighbouring farmer drops by to talk about plastering the thatched farmhouse the couple are building, while their home-schooled nine-year-old studies at the living-room table. [Read more...]

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