Small Business Refuses to Remove Non-Halal Sign Despite Discrimination Ruling

September 17, 2019 Updated: September 17, 2019

A privately owned South Australian food store dismissed a regulatory ruling that signage it placed in their window advertising their products as not being halal-certified breached discrimination rules.

Adelaide-based Valley Butchers is refusing to back down after commercial watchdog Ad Standards decided a “non halal certified” sticker in the shop’s window is discriminatory.

“As long as we own the shop the sign won’t ever come down,” the business wrote on Facebook.

According to Ad Standards, the sticker displayed at Hope Valley Shopping Centre included the business name, logo, and wording “your one butcher.” Underneath were images of an emu and kangaroos plus the words “non halal certified” and “premium meats and small goods.”

The main point of contention is the Ad Standards panel’s claim that while red meat and red meat products can be certified as being halal, there is no such certification for food that is “non halal.”

“The phrase used on the window amounted to a statement that was ridiculing of halal certification and that this was offensive and demeaning to people who are of that faith or are of Muslim ethnicity,” the panel said in its August 7 determination. “Using the phrase ‘non halal certified’ in conjunction with imagery of Australian animals was a suggestion that Islamic dietary practices are not Australian … this advertising would give a strong impression that people of a certain religion or ethnicity might not be welcome in the store.”

However, the owners claim they received an overwhelming level of moral support locally, nationally, and internationally after being told the sticker breached part of the Australian Association of National Advertisers (AANA) Code of Ethics.

“It’s wonderful how loud as Australians wherever we are around the world our voices can be heard, as long as we speak as one,” Valley Butchers said. “We at Valley Butchers would like to thank everyone for the support and encouragement, it’s been amazing.”

The panel said the signage breached section 2.1 of the code, which requires advertisements to not “portray or depict material in a way which discriminates against or vilifies a person or section of the community on account of race, ethnicity, nationality, gender, age, sexual preference, religion, disability, mental illness or political belief.”

The complainant, who maintained anonymity throughout the complaint process, was concerned about the size of the signage and how it made “fun of a specific group of people based on religious belief.”

“I have a photo of the signage but have nowhere to attach it on this form,” the complainant said. “It is very intentional and obvious, ‘jokes’ like this on a public shop front perpetuate a culture of vilification towards religious minorities that results in harm towards them.”

The store tried to dispel these concerns in its response to the panel, explaining the main reason the sign was created was to inform shoppers who wanted halal products that the store does not stock them.

“The sign is only stating that we are not halal approved,” the business said in the determination. “We were getting asked quite frequently whether we are halal approved, so I am just stating that we are not and that saves a lot of wasted time.”

In closing, the panel suggested next time the store could consider changing the wording to “not halal approved” or “unfortunately, non halal,” which likely would not be received so poorly.

“This would be less likely to have been considered discriminatory or vilifying signage,” Ad Standards said.