Halal Slaughter: What Do Scholars And Consumers Think?
Some religious methods of slaughter may significantly compromise animal welfare. Though the slaughter process can be modified in a way that reduces pain and still follows religious standards of practice, not all religious consumers agree on the whether these modifications are acceptable. This study looked at the acceptability of pre-and-post slaughter stunning for Halal meat amongst Islamic scholars and consumers in the United Kingdom.
Halal meat must not come from an animal that has died of natural causes or intoxicants. Islamic food laws also forbid the consumption of pigs and carnivorous animals. Animals that can be eaten must be treated sympathetically throughout their lives, must be slaughtered using a ritual throat cut, and must be alive during slaughter. Other requirements dictate the words that are said during slaughter, the religious affiliation of the slaughterer, and the preparation of the meat.
Meat producers in some industrialized countries attempt to render animals insensitive to pain by stunning them directly before or after the ritual cut. Proponents of “reversible stunning” claim that it is Halal because the animal can theoretically make a full recovery if it does not bleed out, demonstrating that the cause of death is from the ritual cut and not the stunning. However, previous studies have found that 85-90% of Islamic scholars do not find stunning acceptable, according to Islamic food laws. Halal consumers were more lenient than the scholars, with 21% saying they prefer animals be stunned, though the majority of consumers still rejected or disagreed with stunning.
The researchers surveyed 66 Islamic scholars and 314 Halal consumers in the UK to determine their views regarding pre-slaughter and post-slaughter stunning. Face-to-face interviews were also conducted with 49 of the scholars. The researchers found that both scholars and consumers were divided in their views about stunning. Lack of familiarity with stunning could explain why the Islamic scholars, who are expected to advise consumers about what products are considered Halal, did not unanimously agree on whether stunning was acceptable. The general consensus, though, seemed to be that reversible stunning was considered Halal, but should not be encouraged in Halal meat production without further involvement of Islamic scholars.
Cooperation is necessary to satisfy both religious needs and animal welfare, and it certainly seems that more cooperation is needed in Halal meat production. Although pain reduction did not seem to be of paramount importance to most of the participants, it was not rejected so long as the stunning blow did not cause death or reduce blood loss following the ritual cut. These are challenging issues for animal advocates to navigate, but it could make sense to reach out to Islamic scholars and Halal consumers to find better stunning methods.