By Dr Majid Katme, Islamic Medical Association UK
The Islamic Medical Association and British Muslims were shocked on 5th May 2012 to see an erroneous, misguided statement written by Professor Bill Reilly (a consultant in veterinary public health) regarding the religious slaughter of animals used by Muslims and Jews, where he accused Halal slaughter of being cruel to animals when not using secular stunning methods before slaughter!
This statement was published in many newspapers, like the Independent and the Daily Mail… and originated in the Veterinary Record 2012;170:468-469 doi:10.1136/vr.e3100.
I would like to establish the FACTS about non-stun slaughter, and separate them from Fiction and Myth.
We are all aware that there is no scientific evidence, which has been properly done and agreed upon by a broad consensus of scientists, proving that unstunned animals, when properly practised during the religious slaughter, suffer pain. Even the Farm Animal Welfare Council (FAWC) stated this in its Report on the Welfare of Farmed Animals at Slaughter or Killing: Part 1: Red Meat Animals (10 June 2003) in clause 194: “It is difficult to measure pain and distress during the slaughter process in an objective scientific manner and subjective indicators…” So how can Professor Reilly claim for sure that the animal feels pain when religious slaughter is done? Where is the scientific evidence? In fact, there are some scientific studies that strongly suggest stunning causes pain to the animal, i.e., according to EEG brain studies.
It is also common sense that putting electricity onto the skin/body of man or animal causes pain and discomfort and may even cause burning in some cases. It can also possibly lead to death before the actual slaughter. Electricity is still widely used in the world today to torture people in prisons, so why do we allow this torture by electricity for sentient, innocent animals? It must be the financial greed of the slaughter industry, which uses stunning to permit it to kill more animals quickly, without showing any respect for how the animal’s life is being taken.
Or is this rejecting of the religious slaughter of animals a widely erroneous “subjective feeling”, that is predicated on a number of false assumptions that are encouraged by the power structure. Do people believe that by doing the direct cut with a razor sharp knife on a conscious living animal cause pain to the animal? Or is it the ignorance of the public about the medical physiology of an animal that makes them unaware of the results from the cut when done properly in religious slaughter the problem?
Medically and physiologically religious slaughter can be fully explained to those who are concerned: A proper cut to the major blood vessels in the neck will produce a large hemorrhage, followed quickly by hemorrhagic shock with immediate loss of consciousness and “instantaneous anesthesia” or “stunning” leading to unconsciousness, especially as the blood is under high pressure and will come out quickly when a large big hole has been opened by a razor sharp long knife, in the right anatomical side of the neck of the animal. In this way the animal is rendered unconscious painlessly leading to a painless death. The brain is immediately deprived of its “living blood supply”(glucose and oxygen) which are essential for it’s functioning or for any feeling of pain, if there were any!
It is a MYTH, it is an ILLUSION and it is a DELUSION, too, to consider proper religious slaughter of animals without stunning as painful and cruel. The British public is unaware that in the US religious slaughter is officially considered a HUMANE METHOD of slaughter! We do recognise that any improper Religious slaughter might cause pain or discomfort to the animal. Therefore it is the responsibility of the religious communities to assure that this does not happen by ensuring regular Halal audits are done at facilities certified for Halal slaughter.
It is also important to mention another fact which most of the public are not aware. Religious slaughter, without the use of stunning, is allowed in the UK and is LEGAL and in accordance with the law of the land!
Muslim and Jewish believers have discovered that there are many forbidden (Haram) outcomes that result when stunning is used with animals. These are additional reasons they oppose stunning, such as:
- The death of some animals before doing the cut or the act of slaughter, especially in poultry. FAWC reported that about 1/3 of the chickens are dead before doing the cut/slaughter. In Islam it is forbidden to eat the meat of any animal that died before slaughter.
- Blood staying inside the meat (Salt and Pepper hemorrhage) and is unseen, such as when the capillaries and small blood vessels in the meat crack up and explode from the power of electricity. Blood, if consumed, is harmful to health and is forbidden to consume in Islam!
- BSE/Mad cow disease risks increase when the captive bolt pistol is used to crack open the skull of cattle to stun them and can cause contamination in the blood stream.
For Muslims, the meat that is produced according to religious requirements is TAYYIB (pure and natural), while meat where stunning has been used is not Tayyib.
It is important to emphasise that in the secular abattoirs, there is a lot of cruelty inflicted on the animals before slaughter: Kicking, beating, sticking and the pushing of the animals in a harsh disrespectful way. All of these are not permissible with Halal slaughter where ideally the animal should be fed, given water and calmed before slaughter.
Moreover, much of the public is not aware that in using stunning: Some animals become paralysed while conscious, and some have broken bones. And that does not consider the pain when an animal is mis-stunned and has to be stunned again. The best animal well-being standards permit a 5% mis-stun. However, some plants get down to about 3% — but that is still a lot of animals suffering.
It is important to remember that CRUELTY AND MALTREATMENT of animals is rampant and rife in our modern world. Our advice to Compassion in World Farming and all the other animal welfare organisations is to concentrate more on the huge and increasing suffering of animals on farms (factory farming/cage batteries…), secular slaughterhouses, and in homes. There is a lot of important work to do. People should know that all the believers in the three Abrahamic Faiths: Judaism, Christianity and Islam, believe in the same form of proper religious slaughter as performed since the time of the Prophet Abraham.