Updated: Aug 1
In the UK the number of Supermarkets providing a decent sized Halal food range is decreasing every year. Many Muslims depend on online stores or have travel some distance just to get Halal meat. So what is the issue with Halal?
Before converting I believed what the media, RSPCA, PETA, and load of other news sources on animal welfare, that Halal slaughter and food was inhumane and that the animals suffered.
This belief caused me to delay my shahada for a year while I researched Halal slaughter as when I converted that is all the meat I could eat.
So what is Halal meat?
Halal meat is meat taken from a land animal that has been slaughtered in the religious process of Dhabihah, or a creature of the ocean (as they are clean due to the water of the ocean being a purifier).
Before slaughter it is taught in Islam that the care of the animal comes first. Animals are believed to be conscious of God and we, humans, are guardians of the planet thus have a duty of care to the environment and animals. This means no Islamic farm animal is kept in small crowded pens, cages or hutches, but are allowed to be free range and live a good life before slaughter. This level care for animals in the non-Muslim world is only just being accepted and campaigned for.
The Islamic Slaughter
The process of Dhabihah, Islamic slaughter, must be carried out by a Muslim, Jew or Christian as they are people of the Book. It is started by reciting Allah’s name so to seek permission from Allah to carry the slaughter under his name. A sharp knife must be used, as in one clean cut it needs to directly pierce the throat, cut the windpipe, and the blood vessels. Before removing the head, all of the blood must be removed. During this whole process is about the care of the animal and ensure that the animal has a quick death and a good life. During the process the person perforating the slaughter recites a dedication knows as tasmiya or shahada. If there is any distress or unnecessary pain inflicted on the animal the meat they provide is haram.
Apart from the Islamic prayer this slaughter process isn’t much different to what is recommended by the UK Government, and in some respect is more humane. Let me explain.
UK Rules on Animal Slaughter
All animals need to be stunned before slaughter, but do you know what type of stunning is allowed and that the animal is still alive at slaughter? Plus did you know in the UK you can use a stunning method that kills instantly?
Red meat (beef, lamb, pork, venison etc)#
For bovine animals they are restrained in a tight pen or box then you can stun them. Other animals are restrained by either placed in group pens or lined up to be put in a V-shaped either way the rest of the animals in the pen watch each other die. In the UK we use a variety of methods to stun animals such as electrical stunning, bolt to the head and gas.
When bleeding these animals, they can breath, as only their arteries are cut and then they are left until there is no sign of life.
Does this sound humane? It doesn’t sound like a quick death, does it?
White meat (Poultry, Rabbits and Hares):
Stunning these animals is slightly different, particularly for poultry. When stunning poultry they are either stunned by an electric waterbath, gas, or neck dislocation. Rabbits and hares are stunning by a blow to the head or the same as red meat animals. Then they are cut twice on the neck, cutting only the arteries or automatic neck cutters are used and are left to bleed out to death.
In all of UK slaughter animals are not killed quickly and even though they are stunned just the same as us when unconscious they can feel pain and some of the processes used in stunning the animals cause unnecessary pain. Therefore, the meat cannot be consumed by Muslims as the pain inflicted and lack of prayer makes it haram
So why is Halal slaughter seen as inhumane compared to the UK standard when in Islam the animals die quickly?
The process of halal slaughter was conceived on the principle that it is one of the more humane methods of slaughtering animals. As the blood vessels and windpipes are cut meaning the animal is unconscious within a matter of seconds and stay unconscious then die from lack of oxygen and blood within a minute or two.
The bleeding out method, such as the UK standard practice, takes on average 3 minutes when done correctly and has to be done quickly after stunning the animals as they can regain consciousness within 15 seconds.
So when there is so little difference better the types of slaughter except animal welfare during their lives, the prayer at slaughter, and how the cut/s are administered, why do so many non-Muslims protest over halal meat being sold openly and being widely available in stores?
It is my opinion that this belief by non-Muslims is put upon them by mass media and animal rights organisations as well as a lack of proper religious education within the school curriculum especially when it comes to the religious processes used in regards to kosher and halal food.
We need to bare in mind that Islam is the second biggest religion in the UK, with an estimated 3.3 million Muslims (ONS, 2018) living here and making up 5.3% of the population in 2018. And the numbers of Muslims are growing through conversion as well as migrant movement.
With this in mind, shouldn’t Muslims be able to freely find unlimited halal meat collections in every supermarket, being able to get halal food easier around Eid as not every Muslim has the financial ability to pay extra to get their Eid meat from a specialist butcher. I am not saying replace non-halal food but add more halal and kosher products to supermarket shelves to show respect and acceptance of their dietary needs.
It’s time to bring all communities together, educate ourselves on the true processes without being lured into this idea of hate towards a religious practice, and actually provide all communities no matter the colour, culture or religion.
In the spirit Eid Al Adha, I wish you all Eid Mubarak and hope that this articles helps to inform you of one of the most vital Islamic practice to living a halal life.
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