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UK: Top Vet attempts to distort the Facts on traditional slaughter methods

6/3/14  Behalal.org

Behalal.org Staff Reporter

Today we have another media attempt to highlight halal and schecita slaughter.  We were approached by The Times newspaper journalist who wrote an article today “Stop ritual slaughter of animals, say top vet”.

The Muslim community lack a Voice to air concerns following these media stories.  There is a lack of understanding on this issue and unfortunately we feel there is a political agenda at play by how some articles in the media are written to scaremonger the reader.

OUR RESPONSE TO Mr Blackwell’s comments:

Mr John Blackwell, president-elect the British Veterinary Association explains how traditional religious methods cause suffering however; he fails to covey the whole truth.

Firstly, the actual amount of slaughter by religious traditional methods are small e.g. 2% to feed 5% Muslim Community in the UK barely feeding the size of the community.

A single cut will not cause serve pain as he explains compared to using electrical stunning.  Traditional slaughter (without the use of pre-stunning) maybe superior because the initial pain of the throat cut results “in the animal releasing large quantities of endorphins, putting it in a state of euphoria and numbness. The cut thus serves as its own stun explains Joe Regenstein, professor of food science at Cornell University in the United States.

Mr Blackwell fails to explain what the electrical current may do to the animal.  We cannot see what is happening inside the body when the current is applied. It can cause internal trauma e.g. dislocated and broken bones, rupturing of veins/arteries, hemorrhages.

The question is, that if these changes are happening, why is there an assumption that this is not painful to the animal?  Water-bath stunning causes birds to drown and suffocate. Animal welfare scientist have warned that these methods are not humane yet there is a failure to accept that religious methods are effective for the animal’s welfare.

Mr Blackwell completely over looks routine animal husbandry practices such as ear tagging, tail docking and castration that are acknowledged as being more painful than slaughter without stunning. This makes one question the motive over why people/organsitions like his persistently have a narrow agenda by limiting his arguments surrounding a cut preformed at the last few seconds of an animals life.

What is his agenda?

We sent the following information to the journalist who wrote the article mentioned above. We hope by publishing this here will give you an independent voice.

(We dislike the use of word “ritual slaughter”  as it conjures up an image that God is blood thirty when this is not the case.)

Behalal.org is a non-profit and non-political consumer organisation focused on food and non-food products claiming to be halal as well as diet and health. It is a platform to allow others to “help us, join us” to share and contribute information to help others and allow consumers to make better-informed choices. We aim to present the facts to educate in a number of different areas. The most frequent in the media spotlight has been surrounding animal welfare and halal slaughter. We want to convey that Muslims care about animal welfare and Islam has set standards of responsibility for mankind from birth, rearing, handling and slaughter of animals for food right up to handling and cooking of meat to ensure it is safe for consumption. There are several Quranic verses and sayings of the Prophet (peace be upon him) warning Muslims not to harm and mistreat animals and if they did it would be considered a sin. That good treatment and safeguarding of animals may lead to heaven.

 

Halal slaughter has increasingly come under fire for a number of years mainly from confusion, misinformation and unfounded evidence and recently with an undertone of being Islamophobic and intolerant of minority communities. It’s no longer solely an animal welfare issue due to inaccurate information being presented by organizations one would remain objective and independent.  This inaccurate and bias reporting has subsequently led to mass hysteria. Those who have written about this topic have not really understood it or done their homework. Consumers including those from the Muslim community do not understand what is going on in reality in the meat industry. There is wide confusion and misinformation. This has led to an understandable if unjustified concern over religious slaughter methods with pressure being placed upon producers and supplier not to sell this product. Even right wing organizations are using halal meat for the first time to attack Islam and Muslims.

 

As far as the ban of religious slaughter in Denmark, the paradox of hunting still being a protected ‘cultural heritage’ and the infamous public slaughtering of a perfectly healthy giraffe called Marius in front of many children before being dissected and fed to lions. That Copenhagen Zoo deemed to be surplus to requirements, even though various other zoos including one in the UK and an American millionaire offered to take him off their hands. This just demonstrates the double standards being operated when it comes to animal welfare and shows intolerance towards minority communities.

The UK Muslim population is approximately 2.7m comprising 4.8% of the population (UK Census 2011).

 

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) carried out a welfare survey during 19-25 September 2011 which included data on different slaughtering methods (http://multimedia.food.gov.uk/multimedia/pdfs/board/fsa120508.pdf ).

 

Refer to page 5 to show total percentages and you will find slaughter without stunning is smaller than the assumptions that are made by the general public and media where it proves the journalist hasn’t done their home work. When you get a combination of scientists misinforming the public coupled with lazy journalism then no wonder they create the hysteria that we have had in the last few years.

 

Another survey is due for the week 16-22 September 2013 to establish any trends. This document should be updated when the results of the 2013 survey are known. Note: The week chosen for the survey would be considered representative of an average week in the meat industry given the seasonality of production.

 

The summarized results on the FSA 2011 survey are as follows:

Total # of Abattoirs

Total Animals Slaughtered

Total # of Abattoirs performing Halal

Total Halal Slaughter of whichPre-stunHalal

of which Traditional Halal

of which Post-cut stun Halal

Poultry

73

16,101,844

29

4,766,237

4,194,289

571,948

0

100.0%

29.6%

26.0%

3.6%

0.0%

Cattle/Calves

194

43,772

16

1,727

1,451

259

17

100.0%

3.9%

3.3%

0.6%

0.0%

Sheep/Goats

202

307,512

39

154,795

125,384

27,863

1,548

100.0%

50.3%

40.8%

9.1%

0.5%

Table 1: Slaughter statistics by Halal methods (FSA, 2011)

 

These percentages can be applied to consumption data to produce estimates for the extent of the different types of Halal meat in the meat marketplace (Table 2). 2012 UK meat consumption data was taken from the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) economic division. (http://markets.eblex.org.uk/documents/content/markets/meatstats1_uk_meat_and_livestock_facts270214.pdf)

 

Total Meat %   of total

Total Meat Consumed 2012 (tonnes)

Total Halal %   of total

Total Halal Meat

of which      Pre-stun Halal Meat

of which Traditional Halal Meat

of which Post-cut stun          Halal Meat

Poultry

39.6%

*1,986,000

76.1%

587,867

517,323

70,544

0

100.0%

**29.6%

26.0%

3.6%

0.0%

Pork

32.0%

*1,568,000

0.0%

0

0

0

0

100.0%

**0.0%

0.0%

0.0%

0.0%

Beef

22.8%

*1,144,000

5.8%

45,136

37,923

6,769

444

100.0%

**3.9%

3.3%

0.6%

0.0%

Lamb

5.5%

*277,000

18.1%

139,436

112,943

25,098

1,394

100.0%

**50.3%

40.8%

9.1%

0.5%

Total

100.0%

4,975,000

100.0%

772,439

668,189

102,411

1,839

100.0%

15.5%

13.4%

2.1%

0.0%

Table 2: AHDB 2012 UK meat consumption statistics (*) applying FSA 2011 percentages (**)

 

It can be said that of the total meat consumed in the UK approximately 2.1% is produced Traditional Halal without pre-stunning. This is less than the estimated 4.8% of the population that is Muslim.

 

Some slaughter methods currently used are doubtful for halal slaughter

 

Some of the Pre-stun Halal methods are questionable for Halal with the Muslim Community having risen as a concern for years as not meeting the halal criteria, especially in poultry production. Concerns over water-bath stunning of poultry not meeting the halal (lawful) requirements for animal welfare. This has also been raised by animal welfare scientists as failing to meet welfare standards. They rather poultry is gassed as the most humane method.

Organisations like the Farm Animal Welfare Committee who advise the Government and the BVA and RSPA have always wanted a ban on religious slaughter claiming the cut is very painful yet ignore or refuse to enter into dialogue on how to improve the methodology being applied for religious slaughter. They completely over look routine animal husbandry practices such as ear tagging, tail docking and castration that are acknowledged as being more painful than slaughter without stunning. This makes one question the motive over why they persistently have a narrow agenda focused on the last few minutes of an animal’s life.

 

Welfare is for life not just for slaughter.

 

Questions sent to us from The Times Journalist.

 

  1. 1.            Should there be labeling of meat from unstunned animals? Who would benefit and who would lose from this reform? Is it a practical suggestion for all meat – for example would it be difficult for processed meat, school meals, restaurants?

 

As a principle we welcome labeling to ensure consumers can make an informed choice. As consumers we have the right to be informed about how our food is produced and what’s in it and what’s behind the label, especially in light of the horsemeat scandal that shook the industry last year.

The stated objective of such a label is to provide welfare information to consumers on the meat they wish to consume.

However we are against having a narrow discriminatory label only for slaughter without stunning. Welfare is for life and not just for slaughter. Therefore a welfare label should encompass all welfare concerns throughout the animal’s life and death.

 

In North America the Global Animal Partnership (http://www.globalanimalpartnership.org/) have created a 5-step welfare label framework where progressive steps results in higher welfare outcomes for the animal. Such an initiative would allow slaughter without stunning to be objectively placed (depending on intensity & duration of painful stimuli) within an overarching welfare framework alongside other husbandry practices such as ear-tagging, tail-docking, castration, beak trimming etc.to allow all consumers to make an objective informed choice.

 

A narrowly focused slaughter-without-stunning-only label implies there is something uniquely and intrinsically wrong with it and as such needs to be identified. We dispute this. Slaughter without stunning, if carried out correctly under best practice conditions, can be performed well.

 

If indeed the labeling is genuinely about animal welfare then label when mis-stuns occur, thereby leaving the animal in a greater amount of distress than slaughter without Label animal meat as shot in the skull, gassed and death from suffocation. We have seen the independent work from Animal Aid who filmed abuse of pigs, which has led to calls for CCTVs in slaughterhouses. Conversely a reporter from the Daily Mail who visited slaughterhouses where religious slaughter took place found no mistreatment.

 

As per labeling, we already have halal certification organizations and slaughterhouses affixing labels to show they are from a non-stunned source. We have media stories of prosecutions and raids where evidence has been found that non-halal meat is being passed off as halal. Pre-stunned meat is mixed with non-stunned meat for those members of the Muslim community who wish to purchase non-stun. As soon as the meat leaves the slaughterhouse problems start with traceability and often it is the pre-stunned meat being mixed with non-stunned than the other way around. If people are worried that they don’t want religious slaughtered meat then they need not worry, as the total percentage of meat produced without the use of pre-stunning doesn’t even feed the community wanting it. On the contrary there are organizations such as Red Tractor, the EBLEX Quality Assurance Mark, Soil Association, RSPCA etc., which gives non-Muslim consumers the assurance they need that the meat is stunned.

  1. 2.   Are Muslims able to get halal meat on school menus, in hospital and in prison? Can they be sure it is from unstunned animals?

 

Muslim consumers have an increasing worry, or decreasing confidence, in the assurance that the meat comes from non-stunned sources or indeed is halal. Especially following the Food Standards Agency testing of meat products where horsemeat in exchange for beef had been unwittingly being consumed and pork was found in meat pies claiming to be halal. The main non-stun halal certification organization offers part production certification where halal and non-halal are slaughtered or handled on the same site with allegations of mixing. Some Muslims have stopped eating meat or limit it and seek assurance that the meat is in fact halal/lawful. There is a growing awareness of the meat industry and how poor practices like battering rearing of poultry is leading to Muslim consumers opting for free-range meat instead.

 

3.      How is the halal method of killing, without stunning, kinder and more humane than the current practices of stunning for cattle, sheep and poultry?

 

If you compare secular methods of slaughter to that of the prophetic method of halal or religious slaughter (without the use of pre-stunning) it maybe superior because the initial pain of the throat cut results “in the animal releasing large quantities of endorphins, putting it in a state of euphoria and numbness”. The cut thus serves as its own stun. The scientific evidence against halal slaughter is weak and has often been done poorly with an agenda driving a desired outcome.

 

Stunning animals, although overtly claimed to be for welfare reasons, has been embraced by industry not because of welfare but because it makes life easier to handle the animal and faster speeds for greater yield.

 

4       How are Muslim organizations working with Jewish organizations to influence the Government’s policy on halal and kosher meat?

 

Since the biased focus on particularly halal meat in the media and repeated attempts to have only meat produced from non-stun animals is labeled the Jewish and Muslim communities have found themselves sharing a platform voicing the same concerns that there is an agenda that threatens the Rights and Freedom to exercise their religion under the Geneva Convention. That the communities are facing intolerance by those who are anti-Semitic and Islamophobic.  That there is no conclusive evidence that proves slaughter without the use of pre-stunning methods is less humane when done correctly. There will always be an element of pain with all slaughter method however, Islam is a progressive and pragmatic religion that allows the use of technology and science to further the cause to benefit all of mankind if it can be proven beyond doubt that it works, is compatible with Halal criteria and is indeed humane. Nonetheless we will still protect a consumer’s right to purchase traditionally slaughtered meat without stunning as the movement grows towards a more natural and organic meat production system. Similar to how some anti-GM consumers do not want to consumer GM no matter how safe it is, religious consumers should also have the right to consume best-practice traditionally slaughtered meat without stunning irrespective of scientific advances. Currently, the slaughter process technology has proven to be doubtful on the grounds that it does not meet the animal welfare conditions laid out and practiced over 14,00 years ago.

 

Temple Grandin is professor of animal sciences at Colorado State University and one of America’s leading experts on the humane treatment and slaughter of livestock. She explains that there is no difference between stunned and non-stunned slaughter if both are conducted properly and professionally. When a religious slaughter is “done really right”, Grandin has said, “the animal seemed to act like it didn’t even feel it – if I walked up to that animal and put my hand in its face I would have got a much bigger reaction than I observed from the cut, and that was something which really surprised me”.

 

With regards to “Influencing Government policy” we are seeking their understanding of the facts of the matter, getting to the truth than being pressurised into decision-making fuelled by biased information and intolerance of minority communities thereby generating mass hysteria. It’s high time we get to understand that there are political forces at play. Far greater than the eye can see.  If the public were to discover that animals were subject to a pre-slaughter intervention – like having their skull cracked open, [being] electrocuted, or put in a gas chamber – they might not really like that either. Shouldn’t consumers have a right to know which of these methods were used? Shouldn’t they be told about the danger of “mis-stunning”, which leaves the animal conscious and in pain, and occurs “relatively frequently”, according to a 2004, report by the European Food Safety Authority? Why not label all meat with detailed explanations of how exactly the animal in question was killed, and let consumers decide? Why only pick on halal?

 

5       Some of the meat from animals killed by the halal method does not get sold as halal but goes into the general meat market. Do you know where it goes and who uses it?

 

The fact is that most Halal meat is pre-stunned and the non-stun meat that is produced (2% of the annual meat consumption) is less than the population of the Muslims (4.8%). At a global level this problem does not exist. This should then reassure those that feel that pre-stunning has made it kinder. The facts/evidence don’t support this argument that pre-stunning his more humane.

 

The wider Public assume that if the meat is halal it has been produced by non-stun. But it is factually incorrect. There is a Public fear that has set in place, which unfairly scapegoats and pressurises businesses.  There is a lack of understanding of what is halal meat and how and the different ways it is currently being produced. Ironically a bigger worry is that the Muslim community can be slow about the whole affair and place the blame on the person selling them something which in turn may not be halal, thus escaping any personal responsibility.

 

 

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