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behalal.org: Slaughter Methods Explored Category: Animal welfareBehalal.org workConsumerMeat & PoultryReference

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As-salaamu-alaikum,

Behalal.org exists to arm Muslim consumers with information so as to ascertain the Halal status of the products that they purchase. The size of the Halal market means there is considerable power in the ‘Muslim pound’. If co-ordinated this can be used to drive manufacturer behaviour towards those production methods which best meet Muslim needs thereby increasing the pleasure of Allah swt.

Meat, from a Halal perspective, is the food most at risk of becoming ‘haram’. Under classical fiqh principles meat is ‘haram unless proven to be Halal’. Hence the burden of proof rests on the supplier to prove it is Halal. Therefore consumers need to be aware of what to ask suppliers to ensure they are fulfilling their obligation!

The relevant points can be split into 3 headings.

  1. Qur’an & Hadith
  2. Animal
  3. Slaughter method[1]

We’ll take each one in turn.

  1. 1. Qur’an & Hadith

The commandments for Halal & haram and the principles governing its production all stem from the Qur’an & Hadith. Whilst consumers should not expect to reach ‘scholar’ status, able to interpret and give rulings form the Qur’an and Hadith they should nonetheless arm themselves with the relevant verses from the Qur’an and statements of Hadith to verify claims of others.

Remember, the verses of the Qur’an and the statements of Hadith are finite. Thankfully there are only a small number of verses and statements that are directly relevant to Halal and these are relatively easy to remember. Behalal.org will attempt to compile these over time as a reference tool for active consumers.

Fiqh, or Jurisprudence, is the science, which establishes the principles of Halal, and indeed any Islamic act. Once established Fiqh rules or principles can be classified into 5 broad categories

  • Fardh meaning Compulsory
  • Mustahab meaning Recommended
  • Mubah meaning Neutral
  • Makruh meaning Disliked
  • Haram meaning Forbidden

The status of Halal can, at a basic level, be given to any product that fulfils the Fardh and avoids the Haram requirements. At the highest level, the level most pleasing to Allah swt, the ‘gold’ or ‘premium’ Halal status is applied to those products, which also incorporate the Mustahab and avoid the Makruh requirements.

It is important to remember that one cannot make Haram what Allah swt has made Halal.  Hence even if a Muslim consumer demands the ‘gold’ Halal product he cannot label the ‘basic’ Halal product haram. The only time he may be permitted to do so is if it is clearly haram. Even this should be used with caution. Behalal.org recommends calling a particular process haram rather than the product and help the manufacturer convert his process to a ‘higher’ Halal standard.

Consumers should be aware of the criteria used by various scholars, organisations, certifying bodies & Islamic countries. Behalal will compile the various criteria insha’allah to be used as a reference and a debating point. Ultimately Muslim consumers decide what criteria they are willing to accept. In order to create a vast choice of Halal products Behalal recommends a simply system whereby existing criteria can be placed into one of 4 categories – ‘Gold’ halal, ‘Enhanced’ halal, ‘Basic’ halal and Haram. Such a framework would provide manufacturers with clear criteria. Consumer trust and demand can prompt production methods to eventually converge towards the ‘Gold’ Halal criteria. This framework is conceived from the similar principle of ‘Glatt Kosher’.

Obligation to consume Halal food

Consumers need to be aware of their obligation to consume meat as mentioned in the Qura’n 2:168 ‘O you who believe. Eat of that what is in the earth, halal and tayyib. And follow not the footsteps of Shaitan. Verily, He is to you an open enemy’. The punishment for not consuming halal is severe. Your prayers of 40 days are not accepted. Neither are any supplications (dwas) you make.

There are many more Qur’anic and Hadith facts to be made known to Muslim consumers so watch this behalal space!

  1. 2. Animal

Every animal is and every specie is different. Consequently different risks emerge (depending on the animal and the slaughter method) because of halal requirements and the modern production environment.

A starting point

When animals are slaughtered for food for Muslims (and indeed for any person) three categories of risks need to be closely managed. These are, in order:

a)     Risk to the health & safety of the person(s) performing the slaughter

b)     Risk of non-compliance with Halal requirements

c)     Risk of animal welfare concerns

Hence one must look at the animal and slaughtering method before assessing the relevant risks.

 

Which Animal is most at risk of being haram?

From a Halal perspective each animal generates its own risk. Cattle and sheep are slaughtered manually[2], one at a time whereas poultry is normally slaughtered on a fast throughput line (6,000+ per hour) using water-bath stunning (many birds in one tank) and mechanical blade (automated slaughtering). The Halal risks are therefore much greater in poultry. The smaller size of the poultry head and the fact that stun-current is delivered to groups of birds and not individually means there is far greater control required to ensure the current does not kill the bird. The mechanical blade results in a far greater risk that the Tasmiyyah[3] is not recited properly. Mechanisation is not the issue here; the issue is that the name of Allah (God) is not pronounced on the animal. Some scholars have allowed leeway on this by stating that it suffices to be pronounced once when the mechanical blade is turned on. In Behalal’s view the sheer number and depth of Qur’anic ayat[4] which emphasise the importance of reciting the name of Allah means we should demand hand-slaughtered poultry to ensure each bird has the Tasmiyyah read over it individually.

See Section 3 Slaughter Methods for an overview of the methods and associated risks.

Stunning definitions

The other key point to remember is we must use a standard terminology so that everyone (Muslims and non-Muslims) understand what we mean! This is true with regards to the word ‘Stunning’.

UK slaughter rules are governed by the WASK[5] 1995 Regulations. The WASK 95 definition of ‘Stunning’ is different to what Muslims would regard, or expect, stunning.

The WASK 95 defines ‘Stunning’ as ‘..immediate loss of consciousness which lasts until death’. ‘Slaughter’ is defined as ‘..causing the death of the animal by bleeding’. ‘Killing’ is ‘.. causing the death of the animal by any process other than slaughter..’.

Hence, if a processing method guarantees to ‘kill’ the animal, it is called a ‘Killing’ method’. If the ‘stun’ does not guarantee whether the animal is alive or dead then it falls into the ‘Stunning’ definition.

We Muslims would consider a process to be a stunning method if it guaranteed that the animal were not dead after application (100 assurance)! i.e. stunned! This is precisely why some forms of stunning are acceptable to some Muslims and others are not.

Illustration: Captive Bolt stunning & Head-only stunning for sheep would be defined as ‘Stunning’ methods under the WASK 95 Regulations. Head-to-back stunning for sheep would be called a ‘Killing’ method. However there is a strong possibility that Captive Bolt stunning will kill the animal by brain destruction/damage. Head-only stunning can be controlled within defined parameters to ensure it is a ‘Reversible Stun’ whereas the same cannot be verified of Captive Bolt stunning.

  1. 3. Slaughter method[6]

[1] Slaughter process includes stun and non-stun

 

[2] Exception is new Stun-Kill cattle box for Cattle. See Section 3 Slaughter Methods.

[3] Reciting the name of Allah (God) – (minimum: Bismillah; preferred: Bismillah. Allah-u-akbar)

[4] Qur’an 5:3, 6:118, 6:119, 6:121, 6:145, 16:115,

[5] WASK = Welfare of Animals (Slaughter & Killing)

[6] Slaughter process includes stun and non-stun

Here is a summary of the stun/slaughter/kill methods by animal.

Specie Ref Stun/Slaughter/Kill Method Brief Description Classification:Reversible Stun[1] or Stun/Kill[2] orKill[3]
Cattle(All procedures applied one at a time unless stated) 1 Captive-Bolt Stunning (Penetrative) Gun (long metal bolt) shot into the head and into the brain. Stun/Kill
2 Captive-Bolt Stunning (Non-penetrative or mushroom) Gun (long metal bolt with mushroom head) shot on head to create blow to brain Stun/Kill
3 Electric Head-only Stunning Head-only stun applied to head across the brain with tongs Reversible Stun
4 Electric Stun-Kill in box. Mechanically operated. 3-prong stun simultaneously. One to head (to stun), one to brisket, one to back (to give cardiac arrest to kill). Operated in stun-box. Kill
5 Slaughter Knife cuts the throat to allow jugular veins & arteries to pump out blood quickly to cause death Kill
Sheep(All procedures applied one at a time unless stated) 6 Captive-Bolt Stunning (Penetrative) Gun (with long metal bolt) shot into the head and into the brain. Stun/Kill
7 Captive-Bolt Stunning (Non-penetrative or mushroom) Gun (long metal bolt with mushroom head) shot on head to create blow to brain Stun/Kill
8 Electric Head-only Stunning Head-only stun applied to head across the brain with tongs, fork or spikes. Reversible Stun
9 Electric Head-to-back Stun applied simultaneously to head (to stun) & back (to give cardiac arrest to kill) Kill
10 Slaughter Knife cuts the throat to allow jugular veins & arteries to pump out blood quickly to cause death Kill
Poultry(All procedures applied one at a time unless stated) 11 Electric Head-only Stunning Head-only stun applied to head across the brain with tongs. Applied one at a time (Very slow line) Reversible Stun
12 Water stun-bath Bath with multiple chickens on production line running through it. Current give to bath which flows through the bird. Applied to multiple birds depending on size of bath and size of bird. Reversible Stun or Stun/Kill?? Not sufficiently known.
13 Gas Stunning Birds in crates submerged into gas mixture to ‘stun’ the animals Stun/Kill. Not sufficiently researched.
14 CAK (Controlled Atmospheric Killing) Birds in crates submerged into gas mixture to ‘kill’ the animals Kill
14 Manual Slaughter Manual cut across throat to allow jugular veins & arteries to pump out blood quickly to cause death. Applied one at a time. Kill
16 Mechanical Slaughter Automated spinning blade slaughters the chicken. Applied to multiple birds depending on line-speed and production hours. Kill

Now we can provide an overview of the associated risks with each method.

Animal Ref Stun/Slaughter/Kill Method Health & Safety Risks & Controls Halal Risks & Controls Animal Welfare Risks & Controls
CattleCattle 1 Captive-Bolt Stunning (Penetrative) High. Stun-guns must be safely controlled.High. Electricity must be safely controlled.High. Cattle are big animals. Cattle must be restrained appropriately to minimise dangers to operators.

Medium. Cattle Head must be restrained appropriately as required to perform captive-bolt stunning, head-only stunning, stun-kill, slaughter without stunning.

High. Captive Bolt may kill the animal[4]. Risk is lower in non-penentrative but still medium. Not possible to verify what has died as a result and what is ‘stunned’.High. Captive Bolt gives a blow to the head. A blow to the head which kills the animal is expressly forbidden (on top of dead animals)[5] Medium. Mis-stuns do occur for a number of reasons. Approx 10% mis-stun is ‘acceptable’ by animal welfare groups. No data is operationally collected by abattoirs on the level and severity of mis-stuns.Medium. Correct placement of shot on head is vital. Hence training and skilled personnel are required. Equipment must be properly maintained and cleaned otherwise it will not function properly. The right cartridge size must be used for the animal.
2 Captive-Bolt Stunning (Non-penetrative or mushroom)
3 Electric Head-only Stunning Low. Head-only stun puts animal into an epileptic fit. Must ensure that stun parameters are such that it does not kill the animal via electrocution. Work on accepted stun parameters by Muslim associations. Need to conduct further research on what point the animal starts to die from electrocution. Medium. Mis-stuns do occur for a number of reasons. No information on what is ‘acceptable’ by animal welfare groups. No data is operationally collected by abattoirs on the level and severity of mis-stuns.Medium. Correct placement on head is vital. Hence training and skilled personnel are required. Heavy hair/horns may interfere with good electrical contact. Electrodes must be cleaned and maintained otherwise the efficiency of the stun decreases. Good equipment is vital to ensure correct current and duration.
4 Electric Stun-Kill in box. Mechanically operated. Unacceptable. Animal dies as a result of cardiac arrest. Low. Mechanically operated once animal in place. Death occurs before animal recovers from the ‘head-stun’.
5 Slaughter Low. Knife is not sharp. Slaughterman must be trained, skilled, compassionate and competent. Slaughterman does not say Tasmiyyah on each animal. Easy to manage as animal is slaughtered one at a time. Slaughterman must be given enough time to perform key duties. High. Extra importance on restraint, skill on slaughterman, sharpness of knife, and time to death. It can take up to 2 minutes for cattle to lose consciousness due to an extra artery flowing from the heart to the brain via the vertebrae. If done properly majority of cattle lose consciousness within 40 seconds.
SheepSheep 6 Captive-Bolt Stunning (Penetrative) High. Stun-guns must be safely controlled.High. Electricity must be safely controlled.Low. Sheep are small docile animals. They can be easily restrained appropriately to minimise dangers to operators.

Low. Sheep head can be manually restrained as required to perform captive-bolt stunning, head-only stunning, stun-kill, slaughter without stunning.

High. Captive Bolt may kill the animal[6]. Risk is lower in non-penentrative but still medium. Not possible to verify what has died as a result and what is ‘stunned’.High. Captive Bolt gives a blow to the head. A blow to the head which kills the animal is expressly forbidden (on top of dead animals)[7] Medium. Mis-stuns do occur for a number of reasons. No information on what is ‘acceptable’ by animal welfare groups.  No data is operationally collected by abattoirs on the level and severity of mis-stuns.Medium. Correct placement of shot on head is vital. Hence training and skilled personnel are required. Equipment must be properly maintained and cleaned otherwise it will not function properly. The right cartridge size must be used for the animal.
7 Captive-Bolt Stunning (Non-penetrative or mushroom)
8 Electric Head-only Stunning Low. Head-only stun puts animal into an epileptic fit. Must ensure that stun parameters are such that it does not kill the animal via electrocution. Work on accepted stun parameters by Muslim associations. Need to conduct further research on what point the animal starts to die from electrocution. Medium. Mis-stuns do occur for a number of reasons. No information on what is ‘acceptable’ by animal welfare groups. No data is operationally collected by abattoirs on the level and severity of mis-stuns.Medium. Correct placement on head is vital. Hence training and skilled personnel are required. Heavy wool/horns may interfere with good electrical contact. Electrodes must be cleaned and maintained otherwise the efficiency of the stun decreases. Good equipment is vital to ensure correct current and duration.
9 Electric Head-to-back Unacceptable. Animal dies as a result of cardiac arrest. Low. Electrically controlled so head-stun occurs before cardiac arrest (which is painful). Death occurs before animal recovers from the ‘head-stun’.
10 Slaughter Low/Medium. Knife is not sharp. Slaughterman must be trained, skilled, compassionate and competent. Slaughterman does not say Tasmiyyah on each animal. Easy to manage as animal is slaughtered one at a time. Slaughterman must be given enough time to perform key duties. Low/Medium. Extra importance on restraint, skill on slaughterman, sharpness of knife, and time to death. It can take up to 15 seconds for sheep to lose consciousness. If done properly majority of sheep lose consciousness within 7 seconds.
Poultry 11 Electric Head-only Stunning Medium. Electricity must be safely controlled.Low/Medium. Gas must be safely controlled.Low. Poultry are small docile animals but they may flap on restraint. They can be easily restrained to minimise dangers to operators.

Low. Poultry head can be manually restrained as required to perform head-only stunning & manual slaughter.

Low. Head-only stun puts animal into an epileptic fit. Must ensure that stun parameters are such that it does not kill the animal via electrocution. Work on accepted stun parameters by Muslim associations. Need to conduct further research on what point the animal starts to die from electrocution. Medium. Mis-stuns do occur for a number of reasons. No information on what is ‘acceptable’ by animal welfare groups. No data is operationally collected by abattoirs on the level and severity of mis-stuns.Low. Correct placement on head is vital. Hence training and skilled personnel are required. Electrodes must be cleaned and maintained otherwise the efficiency of the stun decreases. Good equipment is vital to ensure correct current and duration.
12 Water stun-bath Medium/High. Head-only stun puts animal into an epileptic fit but current is applied to multiple birds which results in fluctuations in current applied to each bird. Must ensure that stun parameters are such that it does not kill the animal via electrocution. Urgent need to conduct further research on what point the animal starts to die from electrocution.Medium. With large water baths there is a risk that birds can die from drowning making it haram. Urgently needs further research. Smaller water baths will alleviate this concern. Medium. Mis-stuns/Pre-stun shocks do occur for a number of reasons. No information on what is ‘acceptable’ by animal welfare groups. No data is operationally collected by abattoirs on the level and severity of mis-stuns/pre-stun shocks.Medium. Correct submersion of head in water is vital. Hence appropriate adjustable equipment (to account for different sized birds) and dedicated personnel are required. Good equipment is vital to ensure correct current and duration (without drowning).
13 Gas Stunning High. Gas suffocates the animals. Impossible to verify what animals have died from the process. Low. It alleviates the need for poultry to be manually handled out of crates and hung upside down on production lines (a huge welfare concern).
14 CAK (Controlled Atmospheric Killing) Unacceptable. Animal dies as a result of asphyxiation.
15 Manual Slaughter Medium/High. Knife is not sharp. Slaughterman must be trained, skilled, compassionate and competent. Slaughterman does not say Tasmiyyah on each animal. There must be enough slaughtermen with enough time to slaughter & recite on each bird according to the production speed. Low/Medium. Extra importance on restraint, skill on slaughterman, sharpness of knife, and time to death. It can take up to 30 seconds for birds to lose consciousness. If done properly majority of birds lose consciousness within 15 seconds.
16 Mechanical Slaughter High. Tasmiyyah is not said on each animal. Not all animals are cut by the blade (some lift their heads). The blade does not cut the throat but the side of the head or another part. Medium/High. Important to ensure the blade cuts the bird at the right place and at the right depth. A backup slaughterman is required for those birds that have not been slaughtered correctly.It can take up to 30 seconds for birds to lose consciousness. If done properly majority of birds lose consciousness within 15 seconds.

[1] Reversible Stun: Animal will come around if parameters are correctly set

 

[2] Stun/Kill: Animal will either be stunned or killed. Not possible to verify the status for every animal subjected to the process.

[3] Kill: Animal is killed as a result of the process.

[4] Qur’an 2:173, 5:3, 6:145, 16:115. Maytatah or Dead Animals are haram

[5] Qur’an 5:3. Death by ‘a violent blow’ makes the animal haram.

[6] Qur’an 2:173, 5:3, 6:145, 16:115. Maytatah or Dead Animals are haram

[7] Qur’an 5:3. Death by ‘a violent blow’ makes the animal haram.

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