An Animals’ Right to Humane Slaughter

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  Funny story, when I worked as a beef processor for Tyson’s fresh meat. On one particular day as my ex-wife dropped me off to work, my children who decided to come along for the ride asked, “Daddy, where are the cows going?”.

Without really thinking about it  (or how they would react) I explained to them where we get our meat from that we buy in stores. My youngest daughter, Humble (who at the time was 4) felt so horrible for those poor, oppressed cows; she literally refused to eat any kind of beef. Any attempt to get her to eat beef ended in frustration for us. Humble made her stance clear, ‘Cows were friends, not food!’. At first, we were interested… even impressed by Humbles’ stance on what she believed, and supported her feelings. Even children as young as Humble can express their value on life.  Squish a bug they mistake as a pet and watch the disastrous effect.

As a couple of days turned into a week, we worried. We formed a plan to counter Humble’s ‘beef strike’, and began to introduce more of the different sources of protein we knew she would eat – such as turkey, catfish (which she loves to eat to this day), and chicken. We also added beans and vegetables rich in protein to our diets. Living in Texas at the time, where fields of cows were plenty, Humble admired them for their beauty, as adults we take it for granted and simply see them as sources of food. In this, there is a lesson in how we treat animals, even those we use for food.

How Religious Ethics can Shift Consumer Culture.

As a Muslim, this brought to my mind that Islam teaches that animals, yes, even the ones we eat have rights they in a way expect from us. They have the right to being properly raised, and taken care of, and the right to not simply be a source of food. I try my best to eat Halaal or kosher meat it can be expensive depending on where you buy it. While I’m not a vegan, I’m conscientious in that I would never want another living creature to be tortured just to satisfy my hunger. Halaal slaughter is the least cruel of slaughter methods I’ve personally witnessed and from my own experience in beef processing the cleanest. As conventional slaughter doesn’t guarantee the animal dies painlessly as possible and puts the animal under severe duress which is not only cruel and inhumane but actually can affect the quality of the meat causing those who eat it to also affect their health both physically and mentally.

I’m quite aware that the taking of life is sensitive for many of our readers and today many people are becoming more conscious of how animals are treated before and during slaughter. This is where Halal and even Kosher food production comes into play. While many companies are beginning to label their meat, dairy and eggs as ‘Certified Humane’, ‘Cage Free’, or ‘Pasture Raised’;  many times these labels are just that – simply labels. Take, for example, the label ‘Pasture Raised’ eggs for chickens; where any unassuming shopper would guess that those chickens are allowed to roam in a pasture (when weather permits) to do what chickens do best. But the reality is these labels can mean a variety of things even if there is an audit by a third-party organization. This further requires consumers to read the fine print and weigh the options.

So what makes Halaal and Kosher products different, especially when it comes to how animals are raised and kept before slaughter. We’ll start with how the animals are raised and kept. Traditionally Muslims are obliged to treat the animals under their care with the utmost humane respect and care. There are numerous examples of the benefits that animals play in our lives as well as people’s obligations towards those animals from the Qur’an:

  • And cattle He has created for you (men); from them, you derive warmth and numerous benefits, and of their (meat) ye eat. Surah An-Nahl 16:5

  • And they carry your heavy loads to lands that ye could not (otherwise) reach except with souls distressed: for your Lord is indeed Most Kind, Most Merciful. Surah An-Nahl 16:7

  • And (He has created) horses, mules, and donkeys, for you to ride and as an adornment; And he has created other things of which ye have no knowledge. Surah An-Nahl 16:8

  • We have made animals subject to you, that ye may be grateful. Surah Al-Haj 22:36

  • There is not a moving (living) creature on earth, nor a bird that flies with its two wings but are communities like you. We have neglected nothing in the Book, then unto their Lord, they (all) shall be gathered. Surah Al-Anam 6:38

  • Seest thou not that it is Allah Whose praise all beings in the heavens and on earth do celebrate, and the birds (of the air) with wings outspread? Each one knows its own (mode of) prayer and praise, and Allah knows well all that they do. Surah An-Noor 24:41

  •  Transgress not in the balance, and weigh with justice, and skimp not in the balance … earth, He set it down for all beings Surah Ar-Rahman 55:8–10

As we can see from the above verses from the Noble Qur’an, Muslims are taught that the creatures of the earth have a noble purpose and aren’t to be treated with the highest of ethical concern much unlike how we see in conventional farms and slaughterhouses were cattle and other domesticated animals face horrible living conditions. In fact, Islam as a way of life lays down specific rules in the most humane way an animal should be slaughtered for food, which are highly ethical and ensures such animals are not tortured or oppressed at the end of their lives. The following is a shortlist of such rules:

  1. Animals should have a pre-slaughter rest, and be well fed and well looked after at the point of slaughter.

  2. The animals must be alive or deemed to be alive at the time of slaughter.

  3. Slaughter must be performed by a Muslim (who is of sound mind, mature, and fully understands the Islamic procedure and conditions for slaughtering of animals).

  4. That all animals that are to be slaughtered should be securely restrained, particularly the head and neck, before cutting the throat so that movement doesn’t cause unnecessary harm.

  5. Operator competence is of great importance to carry out satisfactory halāl slaughter.

  6. The knife must be razor-sharp and without blemishes and damage. For animals with normal necks, the act of slaughter must begin with an incision on the animal’s neck just before the glottis, and for animals with long necks such as chicken, turkeys, ostriches, camels, etc.

  7. The animal’s trachea and esophagus must be severed. The spinal cord should not be cut and the head not severed completely to induce immediate and massive hemorrhage. In certain mazhab (schools of thought), uttering the phrase “Bismillah” (In the name of God) immediately before the slaughter is compulsory. In others, such utterance is highly encouraged.

  8. The cutting of the throat must be done only once. The slaughtering implement must not be lifted off the animal during slaughtering. Any lifting is construed as one act of slaughter. Multiple acts of slaughter on one animal are prohibited.

  9. Slaughter the animal in such a way that its life departs quickly, and it is not left to suffer.

  10. must be spontaneous and complete.

  11. The animal should not be shackled and hoisted before bleeding.

  12. The cutting of the throat should be done only after the animal has lost consciousness. Restraining equipment should be comfortable for the animal.

  13. Further preparation and dressing of the carcass must be delayed until all signs of life and cerebral reflex have disappeared.

These rules are in place as a mercy for the animal and aren’t found in conventional methods of slaughter, where animals being slaughtered are in full view of those awaiting slaughter; they are bludgeoned (“knocked”), and may not be completely unconscious at the time of slaughter. I understand this may be a particularly gruesome subject for some, but we must understand how animals that end up on our dinner table in the meals we serve are treated. They are not simply a commodity to be treated without any ethical concern which is what we now see in a society bereft of a capitalistic mindset.

Yes, animals have emotions and feelings. They have a language and other means of communication, they even form communities. Even though it all may not be understandable to us. As human beings, if we are to truly enjoy all the benefits these wonderful and beautiful creatures bring to us we must embrace a more ethical means of taking advantage of these benefits.

For information on issues concerning animal slaughter practices, I decided to include some interesting links. I hope you enjoy them.

http://halalforhealth.com/index.html

http://www.sustainabletable.org/274/animal-welfare

… this last one is about cows milk but felt it is also appropriate to include because it deals with raising healthier cows.

http://www.thelotustrust.org/ahimsa.html

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