As a veterinary student I am frequently asked the question “What do you think about Halal meat? Isn’t it terrible?”
My answer is invariably, “Yes, but….”
Now I appreciate that this is a highly emotive topic of conversation. People have very strong views on the matter, often fuelled by the so called ‘demonisation of Islam’ by tabloid news papers. Headlines such as : “Now Halal sneaks into our schools” are hardly appropriate for the discussion of such a sensitive subject.
By stripping back the sensationalism for a second we are able to look at the facts. During the preparation of Halal and Kosher meat, the throat is slit and blood drains from the animal.
The historical basis for this practice is a sensible one. In warm climates, the method of slaughtering, before modern day preservation techniques, was hugely important. By allowing the blood to drain from the animal, the meat lasted longer and hence became part of the ritual of slaughter.
For the majority of species this technique is little cause for concern in terms of welfare. The problem arises with ruminants (sheep, goats and cows) because, unlike in other species, the brain is not supplied by the arteries in the neck. Instead, the blood supply runs through the vertebral column. As a result the brain remains oxygenated, and so functional, when the throat is slit. This means the animal does not lose consciousness for several minutes after slaughter. During this period of time the animal is undoubtedly in pain and as human beings we must feel responsible for submitting animals to unnecessary suffering.
We now reach the issue of stunning. It is my opinion that animals should have to be stunned during the process of ritual slaughter. Stunning serves to alleviate the unnecessary suffering that undoubtedly occurs after the throat is slit.
The Islamic faith has no qualms with the stunning of animals during the process of ritual slaughter and many Halal slaughter houses do stun. Many, but not all. It is my opinion that if there is no religious objections to stunning all animals should legally have to be stunned before having their throats slit.
Regrettably the Jewish faith stipulates that animals must not be stunned prior to slaughter. As much as I should condemn Jewish faith leaders for their stance on the issue, who am I to question the beliefs of millions of people? I would implore faith leaders to show leniency, with the simple aim of alleviating unnecessary animal suffering, but I strongly believe that a government should not enforce laws that compromises freedom of religion.
Whichever way you look at it, not enough is currently being done to protect animals from inhumane methods of slaughter in the UK. More should also be done to ensure that all meat slaughtered according to Kosher or Halal rituals is advertised as such. People have the right to know that their food has been killed in a ‘humane’ way.
Now lets consider that point for a moment, as we sit in our comfy armchairs, happily condemning the ‘horrific’ slaughter of Halal and Kosher animals. The time has come to listen to MJ and look in the mirror. The majority of us eat meat on a regular basis, slaughtered in a ‘humane’ way, in accordance with EU legislation. I encourage those who furiously condemn Halal meat to visit a slaughter house where ritual slaughter is not practised and to see for themselves how ‘Humane’ it really is.
In modern society we have become desensitized to the slaughter of animals. At no point in the journey to and from Tesco is the path that paved the way to a nice Shepherd’s pie even considered.
The process of cultivating meat for human consumption is an unpleasant one. It is fair to say that the majority of animals raised for human consumption ‘suffer’ – to a greater or lesser extent – for their entire lives. Mass production of meat for human consumption is a long way from ‘humane’ so it seems hypocritical in the extreme for those, who appear to have an agenda against the Islamic faith, to openly condemn Halal slaughter whilst barely considering the consequences of eating “normal” meat themselves.
Image Rights; The Animal Day . org