Although much less complicated and tedious that Jewish Keshrut,
or Jewish dietary laws, Islam does legislate certain rules and regulation in
regards to diet. All legislations which deal with this worldly life in Islam
are based upon the precept of maximizing benefits and reducing harm, and if the
harm of anything exceeds the benefits that might be gained from it, it is
generally prohibited in Islam. God says:
“They ask you about wine and gambling. Say: In them is much
sin, and also some benefit for people. But its sin is greater than its benefit...”
For this reason, Islam has mandated certain observances
in regards to the slaughter of animals to benefit from their meat, and these
mandates are legislated due to an intrinsic harm which would result if they
were not to be followed, most of which deal with health, as well as alleviating
pain inflicted upon the animal.
The Islamic Method of Slaughtering
One of the main legislations in regards to the
permissibility of meat is that it must be slaughtered according to the mandates
of the religion. Forbidden is any type of animal if it dies of natural cause,
strangulation, due to a violent blow, a headlong fall, by the goring of horns,
and that which has been partially eaten by wild animals. Rather, in order for
meat to be made permissible to eat, it must be slaughtered by a cut through the
neck, reaching through the trachea, esophagus, the jugular veins and carotid
arteries, without severing the spinal cord.
This method is indeed the most humane method to
slaughter an animal to make use of its meat. This is also the only method
endorsed by the congress of the United States of America, as mentioned in
section 1901 and 1902 (b), Chapter 48, Title 7, in which is written the
finds that the use of humane methods in the slaughter of livestock prevents
needless suffering; results in safer and better working conditions for persons
engaged in the slaughtering industry; brings about improvement of products and
economies in slaughtering operations; and produces other benefits for
producers, processors, and consumers which tend to expedite an orderly flow of
livestock and livestock products in interstate and foreign commerce. It is
therefore declared to be the policy of the United States that the slaughtering
of livestock and the handling of livestock in connection with slaughter shall
be carried out only by humane methods.
No method of
slaughtering or handling in connection with slaughtering shall be deemed to
comply with the public policy of the United States unless it is humane. Either
of the following two methods of slaughtering and handling are hereby found to
(a) in the case of cattle, calves, horses,
mules, sheep, swine, and other livestock, all animals are rendered insensible
to pain by a single blow or gunshot or an electrical, chemical or other means
that is rapid and effective, before being shackled, hoisted, thrown, cast, or
(b) by slaughtering in accordance with the
ritual requirements of the Jewish faith or any other religious faith that
prescribes a method of slaughter whereby the animal suffers loss of
consciousness by anemia of the brain caused by the simultaneous and
instantaneous severance of the carotid arteries with a sharp instrument and
handling in connection with such slaughtering.
As can be seen above, this method of slaughtering
ensures the least amount of pain is felt by the animal at the same time
rendering the meat safe to eat. The swift cutting of vessels of the neck
disconnects the flow of blood to the nerves in the brain responsible for pain,
and thus the animal does not feel pain. The movements and withering that happen
to the animal after the cut is made are not due to pain, but due to the
contraction and relaxation of the muscles deficient in blood. This movement is
also essential in forcing the maximum amount of blood from the body, which is
extremely important in order to purify the meat, as remaining blood acts as a
medium for microorganisms, in addition to meat remaining fresher for a longer
period of time. Also crucial to this factor is the severance of the trachea,
esophagus, and the jugular veins in conjunction with the carotid arteries,
which cause a rapid gush of blood to flow from the system. Severance of the
spinal cord, however, may lead to cardiac arrest, causing the stagnation of
blood in the blood vessels due to the damage of nerve fibers leading to the
Does the Animal Feel Pain in This Method?
In a study entitled Attempts to Objectify Pain and
Consciousness in Conventional (captive bolt pistol stunning) and Ritual (halal,
knife) Methods of Slaughtering Sheep and Calves’, carried out by Professor
Wilhelm Schulze and his colleague Dr. Hazim at the School of Veterinary
Medicine, Hanover University, Germany, several electrodes were surgically
implanted at various points of the skull of all animals, touching the surface
of the brain. After the animals were allowed to recover for several weeks,
some animals were slaughtered in the Islamic manner mentioned previously, by
the cutting of the trachea, esophagus, the jugular veins and carotid arteries.
Other animals were stunned first before slaughtering. During the experiment,
an electroencephalograph (EEG) and an electrocardiogram (ECG) recorded the
condition of the brain and the heart of all animals during the course of
slaughter and stunning. The following results were recorded:
1. The first three seconds from the time of
Islamic slaughter as recorded on the EEG did not show any change from the graph
before slaughter, thus indicating that the animal did not feel any pain during
or immediately after the incision.
2. For the following 3 seconds, the EEG recorded
a condition of deep sleep - unconsciousness. This is due to the large quantity
of blood gushing out from the body.
3. After the above-mentioned 6 seconds, the EEG
recorded zero level, showing no feeling of pain at all.
4. As the brain message (EEG) dropped to zero
level, the heart was still pounding and the body convulsing vigorously (a
reflex action of the spinal cord) driving a maximum amount of blood from the
body thus resulting in hygienic meat for the consumer.
Modern Stunning Techniques Used Prior to Slaughtering
Critics of Islamic and similar Jewish procedures in
slaughtering animals oppose the fact that 1902 (a) is not implemented, which calls,
though optionally, that animals be stunned before their throats be cut. This
is based on the claim that stunning renders the animal insensible to pain,
although the more favorable opinion is that it renders the animal easier to
control in mass factory-like slaughter houses. Some modern means of stunning
are the following:
·Captive Bolt Pistol (CBP): This stunning
method is widely used for all farmed animals and rabbits. Gun powder
(cartridge), compressed air and spring under tension drive bolts through the
skull of animals. This type of stunning is widely used for all farmed animals.
It is called ‘captive’ since the bolt is shot out of the barrel but remains
attached to the pistol.
·Concussion stunning. A mechanically
operated instrument delivers a blow to the brain and concusses the brain. Used
for cattle, sheep, calves, rabbits.
·Free bullets. Used for animals difficult to
handle such as wild pigs, bison, deer, horses or in emergencies.
After stunning animals may be
pithed, involving inserting a rod into the cavity made by the bolt to destroy
the lower portion of the brain and the upper spinal cord. In all these
methods, unconsciousness is caused either by penetration of the skull which
causes brain damage or by causing a concussive blow to the brain without
penetration. After stunning the animal undergoes sticking which cuts off the
blood supply to the brain. After animals are stunned and stuck, they are bled,
and it is the bleeding that causes death. The industry requires that the heart
should remain beating as long as possible after sticking to ensure that as much
blood as possible is removed from the flesh and blood vessels. This apparently
maintains the quality of the meat and its keeping potential.
·Head-Only Stunning: Cattle, sheep, goats and
ostriches are all stunned using this method. The technique involves the
application of a pair of electric tongs on either side of the animal’s head. An
electric current is then passed through the brain and this supposedly leads to the
temporary loss of consciousness.
·Cardiac arrest stunning:
Used for cattle, sheep, pigs, rabbits and goats. An electric current is
either sent through the head and body at the same time to span the brain and
heart or is sent though the head first and then across the chest or through the
head and body at the same time.
·Water Bath Stunning: This is a widely used method of stunning for chickens,
turkeys, geese and ducks. In this method, birds are shackled upside-down on a
moving conveyor belt that takes them to the electric water bath. The birds’
heads are to supposedly be immersed in this water causing their electrocution.
In recent years, the strength of the electric current has been raised to ensure
the death of the birds by cardiac arrest.
Birds may be stunned using CO2 and Argon gas while they
remain in their crates. Pigs are also gassed using CO2.
In this method a knife is stuck into the animal’s throat
or neck causing brain death from the rapid loss of blood supply to the brain.
Does the Animal Feel Pain in This Method?
Studies have shown that stunning the animal with the
mentioned techniques put the animal through unnecessary pain. Concerning CBP,
the study at the German University showed the following result for stunned
1. The animals were apparently unconscious soon
2. EEG showed severe pain immediately after
3. The hearts of the animal stunned by CBP
stopped beating earlier as compared to those of the animals slaughtered
according to the Halal method resulting in the retention of more blood in the
meat. This in turn is unhygienic for the consumer.
Although the animals were rendered unconscious, they
felt severe pain from the stunning, a factor not present in the Islamic manner.
The Slaughter of Livestock (part 3 of 4): The Islamic Ruling Concerning Stunning (1)
Although there is no specific prohibition of stunning
prior to slaughtering of animals in Islam, it remains, after certain studies,
that refraining from stunning is always best, due to the following reasons.
Islam is a religion which encourages its followers to
show mercy to all of creation. It prohibits inflicting unnecessary harm to
animals. Even during time of slaughtering, the Prophet said:
“And when you slaughter, then slaughter in the most
perfect of manners.” (Saheeh Muslim)
He commanded that one sharpen their knives before
“Sharpen your knives, so that you make it easy for
the slaughtering animal.” (Saheeh Muslim)
The epitome of mercy and compassion to animals is that
he said that one should never sharpen their knives in their presence, nor
slaughter one animal in the presence of another.
“He commanded that we sharpen our knives and
[slaughter] out of the sight of other animals.” (Ahmad)
In another narration:
“The Prophet, may the mercy and blessings of God be
upon him, passed by a man who was sharpening his knife while had his foot on
one side of the face of a sheep (holding it to the ground), and it was looking
up at him. The Prophet said: ‘Couldn’t you have done this beforehand? You
wish to kill it many times.’”
In order to be effective, CBP stunning must be performed
by highly trained personnel, and specific cartridge strengths must be used. If
this is not the case, or if the pistol is not positioned correctly, the animal
will have to endure the pain of being shot incorrectly, and then will have to face
the pain of being shot again, or the claimed pain (although not true) of being
knifed while conscious. If the animal were to have been slaughtered without
CBP, there would have been none or minimal pain felt by the animal. In a 1996
report, the Scientific Committee of the European Commission said that, “In 5 to
10% of cattle, captive bolt stunning is not applied correctly,“ which according
to VIVA (Vegetarian International Voice for Animals), translates to 230,000 cattle
in the UK alone. FAWC (Farm Animal Welfare association) reported “In the
course of our slaughterhouse visits, we have frequently examined carcass heads
to check the site of bolt penetration. In our view, there were far too many
cases where penetration had not been at or near the recommended position and
also evidence of a considerable number of double shots (i.e. indicating that
the first shot had missed its proper target).”
The same may be said for electric head-only stunning. The
Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) says “There is
increasing scientific evidence that some animals that are stunned electrically
using tongs regain consciousness before they die from loss of blood.” The
reasons behind this are either an inefficient electric current being passed
through the animals’ brain during stunning or the animals begin to regain
consciousness if the time interval between stunning and sticking exceeds a
period of 20 seconds.
VIVA explains this saying that the stun caused by the
electric head-only technique lasts between 20 and 40 seconds whereas the
interval between stunning and knifing is as high as 70 seconds for sheep. This
means that there are around 5 million sheep that regain consciousness after
being electrically stunned before they die of blood loss.
Research done at Bristol University has also shown that
after an electric stun, sheep may not be able to feel pain; they do, however,
experience periods of full awareness. Furthermore, there is no evidence that
the loss of consciousness is immediate, and some people, like neurophysiologist
Dr. Harold Hilman, believe that stunning is extremely painful, pointing out that
the electrocution of prisoners is used as a torture method in some countries. The
animals cannot express this pain by crying out or by moving since the massive
electric current paralyzes them.
Inadequate stunning also occurs in water bath stunning,
especially with ducks and geese, as they tend to raise their heads when
entering the water bath and their heads are therefore not fully immersed in the
water. Another problem with this method is that, although the aim of this
method is to induce cardiac arrest, “many birds are improperly stunned and
recover consciousness before slaughter,” according to the RSPCA. This is also
the case for sticking, as animals may regain consciousness prior to death.
The pain felt by any living being through suffocation,
as in the case of gassing, is clear to any person and need not be detailed.
What can be observed is that although these methods are
supposedly meant to reduce pain, the result is that the animal actually
undergoes more pain, both from the initial stunning and from the following
actions if stunning is performed inadequately. Again, causing unnecessary pain
to animals is prohibited in Islam.
 Meaning that
sharpening the knife in the presence of the animal was equal to killing it.
The Slaughter of Livestock (part 4 of 4): The Islamic Ruling Concerning Stunning (2)
It is clear that the removal of the maximum amount of
blood before death of the animal is crucial to the purity of the meat. In the
various methods of stunning, animals may undergo cardiac arrest after stunning,
either unintentionally, such as electric head-only stunning, or intentionally,
such as electric water bath stunning, in which enough electricity is used to
ensure cardiac arrest of poultry. From the results of the experiment of the German University was that the hearts of animals stunned by CBP stopped beating earlier as
compared to those of the animals slaughtered according to the Islamic method
resulting in the retention of more blood in the meat. Stunning also causes ‘salt
and pepper’ hemorrhage where the small blood vessels rapture, and blood leaks
into the meat tissue. All these techniques cause the blood to remain in the
vessels, encouraging the spawning of microorganisms.
Contamination of Meat
There is a rising concern that stunning may be a factor
in the spread of mad cow’s disease from cattle to humans, as it was discovered
in recent research carried out at Texas A&M University and by Canada’s Food
Inspection Agency, that a method called pneumatic stunning (which is the firing
of a metal bolt into the cow's brain followed by a pulverizing burst of 150
pounds of air pressure) delivered a force so explosive that it scattered brain
tissue throughout the animal. This news is disturbing since the brain tissue
and spinal cord are the most infectious parts of an animal with mad cow
disease, which causes fatal Swiss cheese like holes in the brain of the
infected animal. It is more disturbing to find out that around 30 to 40
percent of American cattle are stunned by pneumatic guns.
It was found by an experiment conducted by Gregory and
Whittington in 1992 and published in Research in Veterinary Science under the
title of Inhalation of Water During Electrical Stunning in Chickens that
“chickens can and do inhale water during electric stunning in a water bath. No
remedy for this is available at the moment.” It was also noticed that birds
may defecate while being stunned and so live birds may inhale water fouled by
feces at stunning, thus making their meat unhygienic as the fluids may leak out
of the lungs and cause contamination.
Fear of Death
In many of these stunning techniques, animals die before
they are slaughtered, either unintentionally, such as CBP and electric
head-only stunning, or intentionally, such as gassing. This, according to
Islam, renders the meat unlawful for human consumption, as it enters the
category of carrion meat.
The legislations of the religion come from a Divine
source, the Creator of all that exist, One Whose knowledge of His creation is
infinite. This fact necessitates that all things mandated by God in the
religion are done so from this Divine Knowledge, and therefore must be ultimate
in all ways. Analyzing the legislations mandated and recommended in the
religion of Islam will definitely come to show that indeed they are the best
and most suitable to any given circumstance, and that they have a common
denominator, the maximization of benefits and reduction of harm. As some people
classify the Islamic method of slaughter to be cruelty to animals, the reality
shows facts quite the opposite. Accusations of animal cruelty should very
rightly be focused on those who do not use the Islamic way of slaughtering, but
prefer to use those methods which cause pain and agony to the animal and could
also very well cause harm to those consuming the meat
Is Islamic Slaughtering Cruel to Animals? Dr. Aisha
Is Stunning Animals Really Humane? Dr. Aisha
Going for the Kill. Juliet Gellatley BSc