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HISTORY OF RELIGIOUS SLAUGHTER

The common methods of slaughtering animals for food in this country are by prestunning .The methods employed are:

  • Captive bolt pistol
  • Electric Stunning of sheep
  • Electric stunning in Britain stopped in 1958,replaced by CO2 (carbon dioxide) gas stunning. In this method, 65% to 70% gas and air mixture is given for 45 seconds but bleeding must begin within 30 seconds.

The Jewish community strictly refuses to accept stunning. Muslims have identical religious requirements and it is for this reason that both communities sought and obtained and exemption in 1911 when stunning was made compulsory in UK.

In October 1985, The Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food invited the Muslim community and others for consultation on the proposal by the Farm Animal Welfare Councils (FAWC) on the welfare of livestock when slaughtered by religious methods, calling for a repeal of the legislative provisions permitting slaughter without stunning. They cited pain and cruelty to animals when slaughtered without prior stunning as the main reason. The FAWC report also remarked that there was a widespread lack of understanding of why religious slaughter was considered necessary in Islam

The Islamic Cultural Centre (ICC) spearheaded a strong representation to the government for the retention of exemption. Arguments were made justifying non stunning on the grounds of compassion to animals, painless slaughter, prohibition in the Quran to consume blood and carrion, arguing that the strict procedure of slaughter allowed maximum bleeding whereas pre-stunning is scientifically known to kill the animal before slaughter and overall improved quality of the meat. Other animal welfare concerns were also addressed which are important in halal slaughtrer such as ensuring that animals are fed and watered; that they do not sight blood of carcasses, nor see other animals beings slaughtered, ECT.

It is difficult to know what indeed persuaded the government to retain the exemption, but it is probably that good community relations, particularly as it was a common approach by the Jewish and Muslim groups prevailed above other considerations. Since then, there has been consistent Muslim and Jewish pressure to ensure that the exemption was not removed or eroded.

Of all the Muslim slaughter practices and Shariah Law, the most fought over issue is about stunning which is seen to possibly render the animal or bird dead, although the primary aim is to make it unconscious so as slaughter the animal while it is alive. Scholars throughout the world have been consulted. Now the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations WHO have published CODEX ALIMENTARIUS specifying among many other things rules to be followed, which especially avoided the mention of stunning or otherwise and instead advises as follows:

The animal to be slaughtered should be alive or deemed to be alive at the time of slaughter