Is High Frequency Electrical Stunning Halal-Friendly?
One of the most important emerging battlegrounds in the fight for more humane slaughter practices is the religious slaughter sector, and one of the biggest segments in that sector is the halal market. Both halal and kosher slaughter, while originally meant to preserve bodily integrity of animals on the way to slaughter, have been criticized in recent decades for their aversion to stunning. We’ve covered issues around halal slaughter on Faunalytics extensively, and one of the key sticking points is the issue of stunning: to meet halal requirements, animals cannot be injured at the time of slaughter, which means that many stunning methods actually invalidate the practice. In response, researchers are looking for the best ways to reversibly stun animals, so that they can fully recover and thus not be seen as “injured” upon slaughter. One of the most popular stunning methods is electrical stunning, and this study was conducted to gauge the viability of it as a reversible method for halal slaughter. The authors note that generally speaking, electrical stunning is reversible depending on whether or not it induces cardiac arrest or not, or put another way, whether it is applied to the head only, or “head-to-body.”
The purposes of this study was to see if scholars could resolve the tension between halal acceptability and welfare for electrical stunning. From “the Islamic standard point of view,” the stunning should be relatively short, but from the welfare standpoint, “the period of unconsciousness induced by the stun must be longer than the combination of the stun-to-stick interval and the time from sticking to loss of brain responsiveness.” It’s a challenging tension to resolve because head-only electrical stunning in cows may satisfy halal requirements because of its short stun time, but still not make much of a difference in terms of welfare because cows tend to recover before being bled out. Through a thorough analysis of slaughter data and studies looking at electrical slaughter, the researchers found that the electrical frequency is perhaps the most important parameter that “can be used to manipulate the effectiveness of electrical stunning.” They note that low frequency stunning and “electrical baths” do not show good performance when it comes to stunning; higher frequency stunning, “when properly applied,” is reversible and and helps with “efficient bleeding,” which is essential for safeguarding animal welfare at the time of slaughter. However, there is no consensus on the appropriate range of high frequency electrical current, which creates discrepancies in some of the data.
For animal advocates, the study shows that there may be potential resolutions to the halal slaughter / welfare tension. However, for advocates to endorse such a resolution will largely depend on whether they stand on the idea of “humane slaughter” at all.