The ethics of halal and kosher meat

Screenshot 2014-03-14 15.10.54By

A new Danish regulation has effectively banned the production of halal and kosher meat, as it no longer exempts the Jewish and Muslim communities from not stunning the animal before slaughter. The Danish minister of Agriculture declared that the ban is because “Animal welfare takes precedence over religion”. This has been deemed antisemitic and Islamophobia and he has been criticised for stripping away the religious rights of Jews and Muslims.

Currently in the UK, The Welfare of Animals Regulations 1995 requires that all animals be stunned before slaughtered so as to reduce suffering. However, Muslim and Jewish communities have been exempt from this due to religious law that dictates that animals must be alive during slaughter and this is the right that the Danish government has taken away. There are very specific practices that must take place in order for meat to be considered halal. Before the animal is slaughtered, a practicing Muslim must recite a blessing and he/she must perform the execution with a very sharp knife and importantly all blood must also be drained. The Qur’an teaches Muslims to respect animals as they are God’s creation and the killing method is meant to reduce pain as much as possible.

Stunning is undesirable as it may kill the animal before its throat is cut and also causes the heart to stop more quickly, meaning that blood stays in the body, which is considered unhygienic. The Food Standards Agency conducted a survey in September 2011 and reported that 88% of all halal and kosher meat prepared in the UK is stunned before slaughter. This includes the meat supplied to the University, more specifically St Mary’s and St Aidan’s colleges. This meat should not strictly be considered halal, as the animal is not conscious. Moreover, the practice of the slaughter being conducted by a practicing Muslim has been abandoned.

Nevertheless, many Muslims and Jews alike still consider stunned meat permissible. Furthermore, when Poland banned the production, Jewish and Muslim communities simply turned to imported meat. The majority of halal and kosher meat is actually already imported into Denmark, as demand is so low. This ban will consequently have very little effect on Jewish and Muslim communities. This questions whether the uproar is because of practical reasons, that is to say inability to keep up religious practices, or because Jewish and Muslim communities have had their religious rights stripped away and consequently feel discriminated against.

Many Muslims claim that their methods are far more humane and quicker. In fact, a study conducted by Professor Wilhelm-Schulze and his colleague Dr Hazim at the School of veterinary medicine, Hannover University in Germany indicated that animals feel less pain. They attached EGG recorder to the animals’ brains in order to record the condition of the brain. Whilst the Islamic method was being conducted, the brain activity indicated that the animal felt no pain at the moment of the incision and after six seconds the recorder zero leveled indicating no brain activity and therefore no pain. Despite the common conception that the stunning method reduces pain inflicted, the EEG recorder showed severe pain after the animal was stunned.The Islamic method appears more painful though as the animal convulses but this is merely a reflex reaction of the spinal cord.

The stunning method, however, renders the animal effectively paralysed and therefore cannot demonstrate its pain, if it is indeed experiencing any.  Some halal slaughterhouses in India, Egypt and other countries without strict meat production regulation have produced appalling reports of animals being killed with a blunt knife, abuse before killing and using other animals’ meat as feed, but these are not proper halal practices and should not be considered so.  The practice of killing animals will never be a pleasant one and will normally incite guilt into those who are not desensitised to the practice. Contrary to many third world countries that are far more self-reliant when it comes to procuring their meat, we are generally not used to seeing animals being killed and therefore find almost any footage of it shocking and upsetting.

It links back to the hypocrisy that many Westerners have when it comes to animal slaughter, we object to the way animals are killed yet refuse to perform the act ourselves. We do not want to feel the guilt that is inflicted after killing another living being and therefore criticise others for doing so, but we will still eat the meat. Therefore, stunning will be considered a more popular slaughtering method as the animal does not appear to be in pain.

Some of the methods employed in factory farming, such as the removal of chickens’ beaks, should be considered completely inhumane and abhorrent. Yet, there has been little to no effort made by the Danish government to improve the conditions in factory farms. Dan Jørgensen, the current Danish Minister for Food, Agriculture and Fisheries, pointed out that 25,000 piglets die a day in factory farms. Therefore, for them to claim that the ban is for ‘animal welfare’ is laughable.

It is of far more ethical importance for animals to be treated well throughout their lives than for them to appear to suffer during their final, religious demise, which is what the Qur’an advocates, as it requires Muslims to treat animals with respect and love as they are God’s creation. This should therefore be seen as an infringement on Muslim and Jews in Denmark. If they really desired to take animal welfare seriously as they said the minister of Agriculture appears to want to, they should also be condemning secular animal cruelty as well. It is for this reason that this ban should be considered antisemitic and Islamophobic because there has been no action taken to combat crueller animal practices that are not carried out under the name of God.


One thought on “The ethics of halal and kosher meat

  • Leading veterinary associations all say religious slaughter is inhumane. I’d rather take their word for it, thanks.


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