Singapore: Muslims can eat lab-grown meat if it's from halal animal cells

Dr Nazirudin Mohd Nasir, Mufti of Singapore, says the decision is an example of how fatwa research has to evolve with modern technology

Representative photo of a 'halal certified' stamp (photo: National Herald archives)
Representative photo of a 'halal certified' stamp (photo: National Herald archives)
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PTI

Muslims in Singapore will be allowed to consume lab-cultivated meat if the cells are from animals that are also halal, and the final ingredients do not contain any non-halal components.

Dr Nazirudin Mohd Nasir, the Mufti of Singapore, said that this decision is an example of how fatwa research has to evolve with modern technology and social change, according to a report by TODAY newspaper on Saturday.

He was giving a speech on Friday to launch a two-day international conference on Fatwa in Contemporary Societies.

In Islam, fatwas are religious rulings to guide the Muslim community on the various aspects of religious life and are formal interpretations of Islamic law by a qualified religious scholar known as a mufti.

Masagos Zulkifli, Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs, also told reporters on the sidelines of the conference that the issue of lab-cultivated meat had been studied by the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (MUIS) since 2022.

"We can be one of the first countries in the world to actually lead in this field, not only producing cultivated meat but also ensuring it is halal for Muslims to consume," TODAY quoted the minister as saying.

"Novel foods, which can be produced through more environmentally sustainable means compared to traditional agriculture and aquaculture, offer a practical way to contribute to environmental sustainability," MUIS said in a media release on Saturday, 3 February.

It added that the religious guidance was developed because questions arose about its permissibility for Muslim consumption, after Singapore approved of the sale of cultivated meat products here in 2020, becoming the first country in the world to do so.

The conference was attended by deputy prime minister Heng Swee Keat and about 400 guests comprising international religious leaders, ambassadors, as well as religious and community leaders.

Nazirudin, the Mufti of Singapore said that the religious authorities should allow for adjustments to its rulings as technological developments and social changes take place.

"We could certainly work towards an Islam that seeks to preserve and protect all human life, and secure all forms of well-being, instead of holding an exclusivist view that limits who and what we work with," Singapore's top Islamic leader said.

One such development is that of alternative food sources.

He said that while there are those who argue that there is no need for such food sources and that the Muslim community should continue to enjoy "real" food such as real meat, the Fatwa Committee of MUIS had carefully considered whether lab-cultivated meat is permissible for consumption by Muslims.

He said that the committee, which he chairs, visited laboratories where the meat is cultivated in bioreactors. "While these are originally animal cells, we are essentially dealing with something fundamentally different," he said. "So how should we, in Islamic jurisprudence ... treat something that looks familiar ... Yet is it fundamentally different?"

He said that one option is to play it safe and let future generations deal with the issue, but doing so will risk a larger crisis in the future.

"The committee decided that it is permissible, it is halal, to consume lab-cultivated meat where the cells are from animals that are halal or permissible in Islam, and where the final ingredients do not contain any non-halal components," he added.

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