Back in November 2002, UK Animal Welfare Minister Elliot Morley revealed that his office was looking into revising animal slaughter rules and possibly changing the way those rules governed Kosher and Halal slaughter. This month the Farm Animal Welfare Council formally proposed removing the exemption for Halal and Kosher slaughter that was included in 1995’s Welfare of Animals Regulations, in effect banning such slaughter.
The basic dispute is over whether it is cruel to slaughter animals without stunning them first. Currently, all animals slaughtered in Great Britain must first be stunned, except for those slaughtered for religious communities.
Both Islam and Judaism include dietary rules that prohibit eating animals that are injured in any way before they are slaughtered. So instead of stunning the animal first, such animals are killed by severing the neck and then hoisting the animal so that the blood drains out of the body.
Critics of this method say it is cruel. Compassion in World Farming’s Peter Stevenson told The Independent (London),
Scientific research shows that animals whose throats are cut while they are fully conscious can suffer terribly over relatively lengthy periods as they bleed to death.
In its report, the Farm Animal Welfare Council claims that it can take up to two minutes for animals slaughtered in this method to die.
But supporters of Halal and Kosher slaughter point out that stunning is also painful to animals, and studies show stunning animals occasionally goes wrong and results in animals suffering. Rabbi Yehuda Brodie told The Independent that, “There can be no doubt that every animals feels pain from the stunning, and moreover some 14,000 animals a year are stunned badly or wrongly.”
Both Muslims and Jews are united in seeing the proposal as an attack on religious minorities, with Brodie noting that, “One of the first enactments of the Nazis in 1933 was to outlaw the Jewish method of slaughter.”
Writing in The Guardian, Brian Klug notes that efforts to ban Kosher and Halal slaughter have been around for a long time in Great Britain and other parts of Europe (going back to the 1890s in Switzerland). Klug writes,
Whichever method is used, all animals at the point of slaughter are subjected to a violent act while fully conscious. All are cut or “stuck” (stabbed). All die by bleeding to death. Every method can — and does — go wrong.
. . . So what is the outcry really about?
The answer lies in the very terms in which the issue is framed (though not by FAWC itself): “humane” versus “ritual” slaughter. These are not merely labels for different methods. They imply two totally opposed sensibilities. . . .
Hence the lurid canards about animal being left to “slowly bleed to death”, as if every ounce of pain were being wrung from their tortured bodies, and as if their more fortunate confreres, the ones who are “humanely” killed, are gently put to sleep.
The animal welfare lobby is wrong: Humane and ritual slaughter are racist metaphors for Us and Them. Brian Klug, The Guardian, June 11, 2003.
Muslims unite with Jews to defend animal slaughter rites. Paul Vallely, The Independent (London), June 11, 2003.