CANBERRA – A debate about ritual slaughter has moved to Australia with a pro-animal group calling for abattoirs to be banned from ritually killing animals without stunning them first, a move that sparked uproar among the Muslim community in the country.
“It’s not necessarily more humane to have all animals stunned,” Ikebal Patel, president of the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils, told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) on Saturday, June 18.
“The process of stunning itself is inherently painful to the animal on impact.”
According to the Islamic ritual, the animal is slaughtered by a sharp blade.
In Australia, abattoirs are required to stun the animals before their throat is cut, but several have been given approval to slaughter animals without stunning in accordance with the Islamic ritual.
But, Australia’s Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) said the religious method of animal killing is brutal and should be banned.
“The RSPCA believes that it’s unacceptable to cut the throat of an animal or sever blood vessels while the animal is fully conscious,” RSPCA spokeswoman Melina Tensen said.
“It’s been shown that sheep can be conscious after the throat cuts for 20 to 30 seconds,” Tensen said.
“So that’s quite a long time to be aware of the fact that the pain of the knife cut and the actual stress of the bleeding-out process.
“From an animal welfare perspective, killing an animal without stunning it first is unacceptable.”
The debate comes on the heels of a RSPCA-backed decision by the Australian government to ban live cattle from being exported to Indonesia for slaughter for six months over, what animal rights activists said, cruel slaughter practices.
The ritual slaughter has been also the subject of controversy in the Netherlands, where a pro-animal party submitted a proposal to ban the ritual slaughter on grounds that it causes unnecessary pain to the animal, drawing criticism from Jewish and Muslim groups in the country.
Muslim scholars agree that Shari`ah provides a divine law of mercy that should be applied on all Allah’s creations, including animals.
Islam also provides details about avoiding any unnecessary pain.
The calls to ban the ritual slaughter drew angry reactions from members of the Muslim community in the country, fearing that ban would mean more restrictions on the practice of their beliefs.
“It’s like spitting in our face and saying it’s all wrong,” said Emine Haliloff who helps her Turkish-born father run a farm in the north of Adelaide, which is one of nine abattoirs in South Australia that is allowed to slaughter without stunning.
“I will fight for it, and I’m sure others out there will actually help about not banning this procedure, the Islamic way.” she said.
Emine believes that slaughtering without stunning is the problem.
“I would want the public be more aware of how the procedure is, Islamic correct procedure. If it’s done correctly, I believe there are no issues,” she said.
“But people who are doing it incorrectly, those are the ones that bring the rest of the Muslim community down, which is quite bad.”
Her father Halil has been running his abattoir for about seven years and has around 50 animals at any given time. Now, he fears that most of his customers would not buy the meat if it had been stunned.
“I kill them for the religion, if not do for the religion then my customer [would] run away,” he said.
The federal government said it is reviewing ritual slaughter standards but is not pre-empting the findings.
But, Patel, whose Federation of Islamic Councils is the accreditation body for halal food in the country, is still worried.
“The jury’s out, but I think [if] you talk to somebody who may be having a very strong belief that it should be all non-standard, you are denying them their right from a religious perspective,” he said.
“It could be discrimination, it could also be belittling one of their fundamental rights to existence.”