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Ethical eating in Ramadan

Poor communities around the world are facing the reality of a global food crisis. We are seeing this most recently of course in East Africa where over 10 million people are affected by this. Millions are struggling to grow their own food as a result of drought and floods and factors linked to climate change. Rising food prices caused by poor harvests, higher fuel costs and increased demand, also mean that they cannot afford to buy food that they and their families need. As a result, more and more people go hungry, face gross malnutrition and are thrust back into a cycle of terrible poverty.

Ramadan is an ideal time to not only empathise with those who must go without food without choice, but to do something positive to change the circumstances that created this crisis and break the cycle of poverty. Ethical eating can help ensure that our meals are not eaten at the expense of others. Why not make a few lifestyle changes for a month and then see if you can sustain them for longer?

Five things you can do

1. Eat moderately

There is more than enough food in the world, but some overeat while others go without. Practice moderate eating this Ramadan. The Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, said: “Food for two suffices three, and food for three suffices four.”

Make good use of leftovers and plan your meals in advance. Ramadan allows you to exercise more control over your meals, which can help you regulate your diet and reduce your food shopping bills.

2. Buy fair trade

Fair-trade addresses the injustices of the food trade through trading partnerships that give farmers a better price for their produce. It also ensures decent working conditions, local sustainability, and fairer terms of trade.

Some of the most important fair-trade products are tea, coffee, chocolate/cocoa, and bananas. Look out for the fair-trade logo on products. Spending a little more buys you assurance that the producers of your food have received a fair price and not been exploited.

3. Eat locally grown food

Eating locally grown food that is in season not only has health benefits but is better for the environment. Food transported across vast distances clocks up ‘food miles’ which increases our carbon footprint. This contributes to climate change which in turn negatively impacts poor communities.

“For it is He who produces gardens, both cultivated and wild and the date-palm, and fields bearing produce with all kinds, and the olive tree, and the pomegranate: Similar to one another and yet so different! Eat of their fruit when it comes to fruition but give [unto the poor] their due on harvest day. And do not waste [God's bounties]: verily, He does not love the wasteful!” Quran 6: 141.

Find out what food is in season this Ramadan and plan iftar around it. You can buy seasonal produce from local shops or farmer’s markets. Your local farm may do food deliveries in your area. Check supermarket labels for country of origin and only buy local produce.

4. Switch to free range meat

The meat industry produces cheap meat to maximise profit, at the expense of animal welfare. Some cruel practices include battery farming, where chickens are confined to small cages and may be given growth hormones to make them gain weight quickly.

“Eat and drink all that is halal (lawful) and tayyab (wholesome and pure).” Al-Qur'an 2: 68

Inhumane treatment of animals is against the spirit of Islam. The ‘free-range’ industry allows animals to roam freely, eat a natural vegetarian diet and produces good quality, ethically-produced meat.

Switch to free-range or organic meat for Ramadan. Eating meat less often can help you to appreciate it more, and empathise with those who cannot afford it. Halal organic meat is a small, growing market but free-range eggs and responsibly-farmed fish are available in supermarkets.

5. Don’t waste food

In some developed countries a third of all food goes to waste. This has a negative impact on the environment and also goes against the teachings of Islam.

“Eat and drink but waste not by excess, for Allah loves not the wasters.” – Quran 7:31

Avoid wasting food this Ramadan by planning meals and keeping an eye on ‘use by’ and ‘best before’ dates. Freeze any excess food, and compost fruit and vegetable peelings and teabags.

Use any leftovers in ‘makeover’ recipes to prevent it going to waste. Overripe fruit can be blended with yoghurt, banana or milk to make smoothies. Adding oats, for suhur, will keep you full for longer. Excess vegetables can be made into soup for iftar.

Good luck and happy eating!

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