The Reality of Religious Slaughter
Viva! has interviewed experienced
slaughtermen to discover whether the stated procedures above are adhered
to and to find out the reality of religious slaughter. These men have many
decades of experience in killing animals and observing different methods
of slaughter. We have also referred to the eminent Farm Animal Welfare
Council's (government advisory body) report on religious slaughter (11);
to published scientific studies and to video evidence.
Examples of Witness Statements obtained by Viva! from Slaughtermen
in the UK from 1996 to 1998 regarding Jewish and Muslim
slaughtermen will be referred to by first name only in this
"I've been in the trade for 30 years
and religious slaughter is unbelievably cruel, no doubt about it. "The law
is stupid. I left some pigs out in the rain and as a result I lost my
licence for cruelty and yet a kosher slaughterman can cut an animal's
throat while it's fully conscious and that's not cruel. "Down in Bristol,
at Ramadan, they go and pick their sheep out from the market or from a
dealer and dress it in ribbons. Traditionally they just cut its throat but
the EEC rules say that the head has to come off which has caused a lot of
outrage with the very militant Muslims down here. They won't have any
interference with their methods.
"The big FMC (Farmers Meat
Company) has specific kosher plants.
"Corruption is incredible in
abattoirs. A Shochet (Jewish slaughterer) might knock out 20 steers but
will pass only 10 as kosher. The other 10 are sold as ordinary beef but
not labelled. They won't eat anything below the kidneys so two-thirds of
every beast is also sold on the ordinary market. If abattoir owners see a
good quality kosher animal on the line they will swap it for a non-kosher
one so that they can sell it and make more money. So it's all a complete
bloody nonsense - all this insistence that the animals are cut while
conscious and half the time the meat Jews are eating isn't kosher at
"They claim the animal dies
instantly but I have seen animals trying to get up at least a minute after
they were cut.
"The handling of the animals before
slaughter is also cruel. The upright pens are better than the casting
pens, but are still cruel."
and Muslim slaughter is cruel - it's barbaric. I'm used to seeing animals
die, Christ I kill them every day, but to kill them this way is
disgusting. "I work in a big metropolitan slaughterhouse where they do
kosher slaughter and I've seen animals still trying to get up two minutes
after they're cut and released from the crush. There is no way they die
instantly - ever.
"My experience of Halal is even worse. The
slaughterers often come in with knives that are so blunt they're like
bread saws. They saw away at the animal's throat and haven't got a clue if
they're severing the arteries or not. They don't know what they're doing
and usually don't have a knife sharpener and ask us to sharpen their
knives for them. The animals count for nothing in their
slaughter is unbelievably cruel - I've seen animals still conscious up to
five minutes after slaughter.
"With Halal there's no consistency.
In Leeds they stun and in Bradford they don't. The local authority
dictates and some allow it others don't, some Muslims accept it and others
don't. It doesn't seem to be so vital that an animal isn't stunned for
Even when stunning is supposed to be
used: "When you're on piece work, the other blokes are chasing you and
they don't want any delays. Welfare doesn't come into it - it's get them
killed. Good use of a pistol depends on your manoeuvrability. Lambs jump
about all over the place and are difficult to hit. Because of that they
are often shackled and hauled up before being cut. Often they don't bother
to stun them at all.
"Cows move around when they're in
the killing pen and often don't go down first shot. With bulls they often
have a thick skull and take more than one shot - and often the gun doesn't
people who worry me are the ones who shut their minds off. There are some
very sick people in the game. At the place where I worked the animals used
to be tortured, an ear cut off or an eye out and it had to be a
slaughterman but he was never caught and no one was too
"My experience is that meat
inspectors are corrupt and open to bribery. They found several things
wrong with the slaughterhouse and threatened to close it down. They were
paid off and everything went on the same as before.
"There is no concern for the animals
because welfare all takes too long if things are done properly. People
want cheap meat and the animals pay the price. And where I mostly worked
were council run ones which are supposed to be the best.
"I've seen some terrible things. A
cow gave birth as she came off the lorry and was just dragged through and
killed. The farmer took the calf back with him.
"The speed is so great now that I've
seen cows cut up before they're unconscious.
"In the eyes of the slaughtermen
they cease to be animals and killing them is just another job. They have
no feelings and nothing matters - just get to the end of the
"The only way these men can do their
job is because they are not thinking or rational people. It must have been
exactly what it was like in the German extermination camps.
"Shechita slaughter is supposed to
have come about to protect animals and it probably did - hundreds of years
ago. But now it's a joke. All this ritual for what is nothing more than
legalised abuse. Any normal person who has seen a steer forced into a pen
with its head forced up in the air and its neck slashed open couldn't
defend it. It's like something from another age".
"With Kosher slaughter, particularly with older cows and
bulls, where the hide is thick, it can take some cutting through. It is
out of order to cut the throats of conscious animals whether it is
religious or not.
"I've seen the old method where
they're cast upside down (Weinberg) and it was very stressful. With bulls,
I've seen a rope put through the ring in their nose and then through a
ring in the floor and pulled back tight. It can take them a long time to
die. The new way isn't much better".
Even when animals are supposed to be
"It's common to shackle lambs upside
down while they're still conscious. And I've seen big calves - half the
size of a grown cow - shackled while still alive and hauled up and cut
fully conscious. It's not uncommon.
"I find it very hard when I think
back on what I've done. All animals should be stunned properly before
"I started when I was nine years old
(early thirties now) ~ I got out when I had children. It changes your
attitude to life".
senior meat industry spokesperson who has been involved in slaughter from
the age of 8 - in a family butchers and slaughterhouse.
"I have seen a lot of religious
slaughter over the years and no one will convince me that it is painless.
The way the animal kicks out at the kicking pad in the killing box shows
that and anyone who has ever seen it would know that to make such claims
is a lie. As for the claim that the animal dies instantly - utter
nonsense. It can take a very long time and often they're disembowelled
before they're even unconscious let alone dead".
Even when animals are meant to be
"It is commonplace that lambs are
not stunned - that is my experience.
"Meat Inspectors and Environmental
Health Officers all work to the same end - let's get them killed, let's
get it done then we can get gone and go home! That's all they're
interested in and allow anything that speeds up the process.
"It is not uncommon for someone to
take five or six shots to drop an animal - it happens on a daily basis in
every slaughterhouse. The slaughterman is on an insecure platform, the
animal is moving its head and they frequently place the pistol in the
one of the most experienced slaughtermen in the country and I kill animals
because if we have to eat meat then at least I can ensure that animals
don't suffer and are killed as efficiently as possible. That certainly
isn't the case with kosher and Halal. I have been working for well over
forty years and that's a lot of killing. I have seen kosher and Halal
carried out in many different places and I've assisted. It disgusts
"With Halal the rules are just
ignored. Sheep are dragged long distances to the slaughter cradle, they're
forced on to their backs which is highly stressful and they're usually cut
with blunt knives. At least Jews shave the fleece away from the neck so it
doesn't blunt the knife and make it difficult to cut but Muslims don't
bother. They're have been lots of occasions when I've given the bloke my
"Jewish Shechita slaughter is just a
sick joke. They claim they kill with one cut but with the bigger animals
it never is. The Shochet slices backwards and forwards and it can take as
many as 20 cuts and the animal obviously feels real pain. It can take
minutes to lose consciousness.
"A lot depends on the individual
Shochet. I usually stand by with a captive bolt pistol and he makes the
cuts. I have to wait and watch while the animal bleeds. Some Shochatim
will wait for 30 seconds or more before allowing me to stun the animals,
others will signal to me after a couple of seconds. How the hell can it
make any difference to anyone whether their meat comes from an animal that
is stunned two seconds before it is cut or two seconds
"Rabbis claim that it is painless
and death comes instantly. They used to claim the same for the Weinberg
pen. Just imagine a huge animal like a steer or a bull being placed in a
crush and cranked upside down onto its back. The fear and stress are
enormous. They struggled like crazy and sometimes the only way you could
extend the neck so they could cut was to stand on the animals chin - and
sometimes it took two of you. There was nothing wrong with this according
to the Jews but it was a lie - it was unbelievably cruel.
Now they say there's nothing wrong
with the upright crushes but there is. In fact the Shochet is cutting
upwards, working against gravity and with a weaker set of arm muscles. It
therefore makes the cut much weaker and often means more of
"Ritual slaughter should be banned -
there is no excuse for it".
Viva! Video of Jewish
obtained video evidence, filmed officially, of two cows being killed by
the Jewish slaughter method. Viva! has been told on several occasions that
cattle are killed by one stroke across the neck and that the animal
collapses almost immediately, however this is not the
The cow's neck is
extended and the head lifted upwards by a chin lift in an upright pen. The
animal's nostrils are flaring, eyes staring and it is salivating. The
slaughterer cuts the cow's throat by slicing across it, backwards and
forwards 13 times. The cow jerks away from the knife as far as it can and
its facial reaction shows pain and great aversion. The cow does not
collapse immediately (the filming ends before it
Again, the cow's neck
is extended and the head lifted upwards by a chin lift in an upright pen.
After three strokes the blood pours out; the chin lift which supports the
head is removed, but the animal does not collapse. She is clearly
conscious as the blood gushes from her gaping wound. Her eyes are seeing,
her ears moving and she holds her head upright. The captive bolt is used
on her after 30 seconds, but she still does not collapse. She is still
managing to hold her head up without any support after 50 seconds when the
filming is stopped.
FAWC observations of Religious
Animal Welfare Council (FAWC) is a government advisory body set up by MAFF
in 1979. Its members (chaired by Professor Sir Richard Harrison, Professor
of Anatomy, University of Cambridge) visited six red meat slaughterhouses
(three Jewish, three Muslim) and seven poultry slaughterhouses (five
Jewish, two Muslim). Some were visited twice. Considering the visits were
pre-arranged (so you would expect procedures to be tightened) the results
were very disturbing.
Cutting the Animals
With mainstream slaughter an animal is usually bled out
after stunning by a stab incision into the major blood vessels anterior to
the heart. In religious slaughter, the cut is across the neck from one
side to the other and is meant to sever the major blood
However, it was seen that in Muslim slaughter expertise
varied hugely. Sometimes the head was almost cut off, other times the
knife was not sharp enough. The latter was also a common complaint amongst
the slaughtermen that Viva! interviewed from 1996-1998. The situation
seems to have changed little over the last three decades, as experienced
meat vet HE Bywater observed in the 60's/70's that "(A Muslim) can use
whatever knife he has available.....Muslim slaughter....is often performed
by a person with very limited experience.....Moreover, as the Muslim
ritual requires that, during the ceremony, a prayer must be repeated three
times, some Muslims apparently think that the throat should be severed in
three stages as opposed to the rapid single, to and fro, movement of the
Obviously, a blunt knife makes it very difficult to cut
the throat of an animal and leads to even greater and prolonged distress,
fear and pain.
The knife wasn't always sharpened before each animal
was killed, nor was it always sterilised, as are meant to be the
The FAWC observed that the single transverse cut (often
described as one clean cut) demanded by Jews means in practice a backwards
and forwards stroke. Even when knowingly observed, one Jewish slaughterman
made seven backwards and forwards strokes, using a sawing action which was
"clearly in contravention of the Shochet's training." As described above,
the Viva! film shows a Shochet making 13 strokes; and slaughtermen confirm
this to be the norm.
Muslims and Jews who defend ritual slaughter
say that cutting the throat does not cause pain. The Islamic Medical
Association go as far as saying that cutting the throat of a cow is little
different in terms of pain than a man nicking himself shaving! (37).
However, many other scientists disagree. Applied neurobiologist Dr Harold
Hillman, former reader in Physiology, University of Surrey states that
"the restraint and sudden exposure of the neck must be stressful and the
neck incision painful." (47)
Another common complaint is that
animals are shackled too quickly after their throat has been cut and so
were hoisted when still conscious. Animals suffer terrible distress and
pain (exarcebated when the legs are broken as is often the case with
chickens) being hung upside down. On one occasion, the FAWC saw a cow
recoil when the Shochet tried to shackle it.
described, in Jewish slaughter the Shochet examines the thoracic cavity
for signs of abnormalities. The FAWC found that this examination took
place less than one minute after the animal's throat was cut. In MANY
CASES it was observed that the hand was plunged into the body WHILE THE
ANIMAL WAS ALIVE.
To recap, in Jewish slaughter, the animal has its
throat cut while fully conscious; the knife may slice back and forth
across the neck many times; then the animal may be shackled, hoisted, cut
though its body and have a hand feeling inside its body cavity while he or
she is still capable of feeling.
A considerable amount of force is
needed to restrain a sheep on the slaughtering cradle. Obviously, the
animal feels fear at being placed on its back, having men hold down its
head so the neck is exposed and in many cases knowing its fate, as many
sheep are slaughtered in front of their fellows.
The FAWC observed
some Muslims using the electric tongs on sheep to stun them; however they
generally did not hold them on long enough causing pain and temporary
paralysis, the result being sheep that were easier to handle, but also
still able to feel.
Most poultry going for religious slaughter are
from the 'spent hen' (ex-egg layers) trade. In other words, they are
battery hens who have spent 18 months to two years in a cage so small they
cannot even stretch their wings ~ one of the cruellest systems ever
invented. This system itself is against the teachings of Islam and the
Jewish faith and their followers kill the birds, hoping they have God's
The FAWC state: "Although both communities claim that the
welfare of animals is of paramount importance in their religious teaching,
the handling of poultry in particular leaves a great deal to be desired."
Birds can be crated, without food or water, for many hours. In one Muslim
abattoir, the birds heads were put through an electric water bath where
the voltage was set deliberately low so that the animals did not appear
dead from the stun. In fact, by definition they weren't stunned. They were
being given a painful electric shock and then, still fully conscious,
having their throats slit. In both Jewish and Muslim cases the FAWC were
concerned at the rough way in which birds were removed from their crates.
Also in the bleeding room, birds were being thrown or rammed into the
bleeding cones when their throat was cut. The FAWC says: "The fact that we
were informed on one of our visits that one of the advantages of religious
slaughter compared to slaughter on a fast-moving shackle line was that
birds were handled individually and could therefore be treated more kindly
and humanely was not borne out by what we observed."
Loss of consciousness after throat
The government's advisory body, Farm
Animal Welfare Council (FAWC) state: "when animals are being slaughtered
their welfare is paramount and loss of sensibility should be immediate. It
is clear to us, from our study of currently available work and our own
observations, that loss of consciousness following severance of the major
blood vessels in the neck is not immediate.
"We have not been
convinced by arguments that direct cutting of the throat when carried out
speedily and efficiently causes the animal no more suffering than if had
been effectively stunned......(there are shortcomings in stunning and
these should be rectified), but the fact remains that in our view humane
slaughter can best be achieved by effective stunning".
government has not acted on this recommendation. However, as religious
slaughter methods are illegal in mainstream (non-religious) slaughter,
obviously, the UK government believe that religious slaughter involves
more cruelty. The standard response from MAFF (1997 & 1998)
"Whilst it would be the
Government's preference, in principle, for all animals to be stunned
before slaughter, Ministers recognise the needs of certain communities
and accept the importance which they attach to the right to slaughter
animals for food in accordance with their religious
"It is the Government's intention,
in discussion with representatives of these communities, to encourage
the use of stunning..." (33)
The Humane Slaughter Association
(HSA) states that it 'seeks the most humane methods of slaughter for all
animals and believes this can only be achieved if they are stunned before
being stuck and bled". The HSA campaigned in support of two Private
Members' Bills in 1956 and 1968 and Lord Somer's Bill in the House of
Lords, which sought to remove exemptions in the law for religious
slaughter. These Bills were defeated. (15)
Professor Donald Broom,
specialist in farm animal behaviour, University of Cambridge says:
"Animals are not stunned during
the Jewish Shechita or the Muslim Halal ritual slaughter procedures.
There is a period of consciousness after the throat is cut which may
last for 30 seconds to several minutes during which the animal must be
in great pain and distress. As the heart still beats after stunning and
blood drains from the animal just as effectively whether or not the
animal is stunned there is no logical reason why stunning should not be
carried out before the throat is cut." (35)
Scientists such as Professor
Broom and many others reject the serious suggestion by the Islamic Medical
Association that cutting the throat of an animal is practically the same
as people voluntarily giving blood as a blood donor! The IMA
"A blood donor does not feel pain
when he is bled.....The difference is that instead of a needle a sharp
knife is used to bleed".
The collapse of an animal after
cutting the major blood vessels in the neck is caused by cerebral shock
due to the sudden fall in pressure of the cerebro-spinal fluid and is not
due to lack of oxygen in the blood flow to the brain. The animal may
collapse five to 10 seconds after the throat is cut - so long as the major
vessels are severed properly or occlusions do not occur (see below). The
animal loses consciousness after it has collapsed. There are varying
opinions on when the animal stops being able to feel.
experiments measure the onset of loss of consciousness through observing
physical behaviour, spontaneous electroencephalogram (EEG) and evoked
responses in the electrocorticogram (ECoG) (22,23,24,25). Cattle stop
trying to right themselves between 21 and 47 seconds after the carotids
are cut (22); the EEG indicates that there is sensibility for two to 5.2
minutes after cutting in cattle. (Other scientists argue that the EEG is
not an accurate measure of the state of consciousness - but theirs is a
theory yet to be proven.) Generally, scientists suggest that cattle can
take anything from 25 to 90 seconds to lose consciousness after the neck
has been cut.
D.K. Blackmore (22) of the Dept. of Veterinary
Pathology and Public Health, Massey University, New Zealand who has
published many papers on slaughter states:
"A BASIC requirement for humane
slaughter is that an animal should be rendered insensible before
exsanguination (bleeding) is initiated and this should last until the
animal becomes permanently insensible from cerebral
Blackmore studied the behaviour
of sheep and cattle after being cut; he found that sheep lose
consciousness more quickly than cattle. Lambs collapsed after an average
of 2.6 seconds and stopped attempting to stand after 10 seconds (not being
able to stand does not mean inability to feel); in contrast calves were
standing up to 135 seconds after their throat was cut and were attempting
to stand up to 385 seconds after that. Even though the calves had both
carotid arteries and jugular veins severed three out of four were
breathing up to 11.6 minutes later and so were shot. Lambs were gasping
for up to 3.8 minutes after carotid arteries and jugular veins were cut. A
bull was killed by the Jewish method and was still gasping sporadically
for seven minutes after his carotid arteries, jugular veins, oesophagus
and trachea were cut.
A huge problem is that millions of animals
bleed slowly. Anil et al (21) say: "It is well recognised that unstunned
calves which bleed poorly can take a long time to die." It takes more than
five minutes for the animals to stop trying to stand
Animals bleed slowly when (21):
1. There is occlusion of the cut
artery by surrounding tissues (the artery is elastic and can spring back
into its connective tissue sheath on being cut).
2. Blood platelets stick together at
the end of the cut artery (this leads to the rapid production of a white
clot which can plug the artery).
3. The cut is made, the artery can
go into annular spasm.
All three factors tend to restrict
blood flow from the cut and can produce a ballooning effect in the
vessel. Here, the blood goes into
the connective tissue sheaths surrounding the artery. The ends can balloon
up within 5 seconds of the cut (21). Several studies have shown that this
ballooning effect is common (up to 40%) resulting in delay of brain
failure and blood pressure being held for longer.
occlusions occurred in half of the calves killed by Anil et al by Halal
methods of cutting the carotid arteries and jugular veins. In some of
these animals vertebral artery blood flow was maintained at about
one-third of its normal level for approx. 3 minutes (21). Therefore,
animals do not lose consciousness immediately. Occasionally cattle have
staggered to their feet after being cut and walked some distance before
Scientific papers have commonly reported this
phenomenon in their results throughout this century. Back in 1900 Hoffman
describes a 12 year old cow lying on the floor for 20 seconds after
Shechita. 70 seconds later she lifted her head for 20 seconds. Also, a
three year old bull remained standing after Shechita for two and a half
minutes, afterwards he fell to the ground but still looked around, slowly
bleeding to death.
Ballooning occurs more commonly when blunt
knives are used and so is a greater problem with Muslim slaughter.
However, it does occur for other reasons when sharp knives are used
(though to a lesser degree) and so happens in Jewish slaughter.
is also a problem in mainstream slaughter as, for example, calves start to
regain consciousness between 21 and 59 seconds after electrical
Slaughter expert HE Bywater who witnessed animal
slaughter over several years said: "upholders of the Jewish ritual
maintain that unconsciousness follows within a few seconds of the ritual
cut due to anaemia of the brain, this is not invariably so as experience
in the slaughterhouse has shown."
Bywater's observations lead him
to conclude that: "a state of diminished consciousness or
semi-consciousness follows soon after the large blood vessels are severed,
but that thereafter consciousness can, and does, return in a number of
animals - adult cattle, sheep and calves....
"The blood vessels
which supply the brain in these animals differ from those which are
present in the human and this fact has never been sufficiently appreciated
by the eminent medical men who maintain that the Jewish ritual invariably
causes immediate loss of sensation in food animals." (4)
Textbook of Meat Inspection says:
"A factor of considerable
importance, and to which not sufficient attention has been paid in
considering the problem of Jewish slaughter, is that after the carotid
arteries of cattle are severed transversely, they tend, by virtue of their
elasticity, to retract rapidly within their own external connective tissue
coat, and as a result the sealing of the cut ends of the vessels may
occur. As the blood pressure...is then maintained by the heart, the blood
pressure in the vertebral arteries may likewise be maintained at a
substantial level and unconsciousness therefore delayed".
explains why "some cattle have regained their feet and walked a
considerable distance before they succumbed some minutes
The Textbook of Meat Inspection continues: "these
occurrences have been attributed to the fact that all the neck vessels may
not have been severed completely, but observations lead one to the
conclusion that the cut is invariably made dextrously...There is therefore
considerable doubt as to whether unconsciousness always follows rapidly in
cattle after the severance of the neck vessels, for by the very nature of
the neck cut made in Jewish slaughter it is impossible to ensure that
self-sealing of the cut ends of the carotid arteries will not occur."
In religious slaughter, the animal's vertebrae, spinal cord and
vertebral arteries and veins are not severed. Scientists argue over the
significance of this. Some say that one of the reasons some animals take
several minutes to lose consciousness is because the vertebral arteries
continue to supply blood to the brain after the animal has been cut.
Others say that the blood flow from the vertebral arteries is insufficient
to maintain the brain's functioning (40). Of course, if occlusions occur,
the vertebral arteries can supply enough blood to the brain to keep the
Some scientists argue that measuring evoked
responses in the cortex of the brain is the best method to evaluate
consciousness. Daly et al (25) showed that evoked responses disappeared
instantaneously after the captive bolt pistol was used correctly in
cattle. However, after Shechita the cortex was responding to stimuli from
20 seconds to over two minutes.
Eid-ul-Azha, a festival of great
spiritual importance in the Islamic Lunar Calendar, has, according to
Hamid Ahmad, Pakistan Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, now
turned into an event dominated by commercial trading in animals (18).
Almost all Muslims (male and female) who can afford to take part in the
ritual, will kill, or have killed, a sheep or goat. As an option, says
Ahmad, a cow or camel can be jointly slaughtered by seven Muslims. It is
celebrated with a similar fervour throughout the Islamic
This slaughter is described as 'ritual' by Ahmad. He
"This ritual slaughter is
connected with the Muslim festival of Hajj. At Mecca, Saudi Arabia, the
largest annual gathering of Muslims takes place to perform the Hajj and
the ritual slaughter. On this occasion, in Saudi Arabia, the worlds
largest slaughter of animals takes place, something like 2 million
animals are slaughtered in three consecutive days. Millions of sheep,
goats and other live animals are exported from Australia, New Zealand
etc. to meet the demand."
Other countries also import live
animals for their annual requirements - eg France imports live sheep from
Britain for the festival of Eid-el-Kabir. Alan Dearman, MAFF, states: "The
scenes of slaughter of sheep by Muslims in fields of France over recent
years have been distressing. Enforcement of welfare laws on French
territory is a matter for the French authorities." (48). As usual the
government takes the coward's way out. Viva!'s point to MAFF is that they
can take the decision to stop the live export of British sheep to the
Rosie Catford describes the festival that took
place outside of Paris in 1996 in Viva!Life (19). She says:
approached the killing fields, hundreds of Muslims thronged the streets.
The atmosphere, if we hadn't known better, was like that of a wedding
party. It felt as though we were stepping back in time by several
centuries. The men walked around carrying plastic buckets which contained
an array of knives, screwdrivers, hammers and black bin
"These people were bewildered by our
presence. We tried to explain why we were there, but they laughed saying
'They're only animals!'. Many of us stood in stunned silence, knowing what
was happening only metres from us, but unable to communicate the terrible
suffering of the animals to these people. One of us read extracts of the
Koran as it is very specific about how animals must be slaughtered. It
says that the knife should be straight, smooth and extra sharp. No animal
should be killed in the presence of others or be able to see the knife.
Only a skilled person should cut through the major blood vessels in a
single sweep. Animals should be restrained with the minimum of force.
Failure to comply means the sacrifice will lose its spiritual
This means that the sacrifice was in
vain - because people did not follow the instructions of the Qur'an. Sheep
were trussed up with their front and hind legs tied together and kicked
along to a killing station. The sheep were placed on a cradle and family
members - sometimes children - with no experience in killing, would cut at
the throat. "These were not clean cuts and the sheep would take many
minutes to die, jerking and writhing..." The animals could see one another
and were not treated with kindness and consideration.
"It is a religious preference that
the person offering the animal sacrifice should make the cut to the
jugulars..with his/her own hands. The second best choice is that the
offerer must be present at the time and place of slaughter. Whilst the cut
is made, Islamic verses are uttered and the animal is laid down with its
face towards Mecca."
The annual massacre has become big
business. For example, in Lahore, the second biggest city in Pakistan with
a population of 6 million, about 230,000 animals were killed on the eve of
Eid-ul-Azha in 1996, worth $42 million - the sums paid out for these
sacrificial animals was about $19 million higher than the meat value of
these animals in the open market.
According to Muslim spokespersons on
radio interviews with Viva! in April 1997, animal sacrifice has taken the
place of human sacrifice - thus proving that a religious faith can change
and adapt with the times in order to act in a more civilised and
compassionate fashion. Human sacrifice was once seen as an essential
component of worship and yet is now seen as barbaric, brutal and
completely unacceptable. It is of course illegal. Perhaps one day, the
same attitude will be extended to other animals.
Some Muslims purchase animals for
home slaughter. These animals have, in practice, no legal protection. The
laws surrounding commercial slaughter and the Acts quoted above, do not
extend to domestic premises. It is Viva!'s view that home slaughter should
be banned immediately. In communications with MAFF, Viva! has been told
that it is establishing discussions with religious communities in order to
"encourage the use of stunning, to improve standards and to ensure only
the highest standards apply at slaughter." MAFF says that once established
"must concentrate, as a priority,
on reducing the practice among certain communities of purchasing animals
for home slaughter." (34)
However, MAFF only talks of
"encouraging" communities to stop home slaughter, there is no hint of any
Even many farmers are against home slaughter. As
one said on Farming Today, "somebody should look at the law because it's
quite apparent that the legislation we have has almost entirely been
inspired by food hygiene regulations and has also nothing to do with
animal welfare. These days you've got to register if you're a goat keeper
- if I take a goat more than 50 km I've got to fill in forms etc. so in
some areas animal welfare is up to date - however I can keep a goat for 30
days tied up in my garage and I don't have to tell anybody!"
As previously discussed, two thirds
of all cattle and sheep killed by Jewish slaughter and those carcasses
rejected as non-Kosher are sold on the open market. Also animals killed by
the Halal method which are not sold to Halal outlets or for export are
also sold to the open market. Meat from such animals is not labelled as
being the product of religious slaughter. (The FAWC state that this is
legal so long as it was the original intention that the animal should be
the food of Muslims or Jews; however, it is never the intention of Jews to
eat the hindquarters of the cattle or sheep that they
Inevitably, as animals killed by religious methods can be
sold to the general public without labelling, more than are needed for
consumption by Jews or Muslims, are killed. In other words, non-labelling
of religiously slaughtered animals encourages 'excess' kills by this
Bywater said if Kosher meat sold to the general public were
labelled: "then doubtless Jews would consume more hindquarter meat, after
porging, and this could reduce by 50 per cent the number of animals which
at present need to be killed for the kosher trade". (The weight of the
hindquarters is heavier then the forequarter. Therefore, if all kosher
hindquarters were eaten by Jews there would be available to them double
the present weight of meat, even when trefar meat is taken into account.)
Viva! believes that at the very least, all meat from
religiously slaughtered animals should be clearly labelled to identify the
method of slaughter. This labelling requirement is a basic consumer
Viva!'s call for the labelling of meat from religiously
slaughtered animals is supported by the consumer rights organisation, FLAG
(Food Labelling Agenda) and was proposed by the government's advisory
body, the Farm Animal Welfare Council, in 1985. MAFF issued a press
release on 19 Sept. 1997 stating "we want (food) to be accurately and
honestly described and labelled." If that is true, MAFF must support our
Even if a person believes that religious slaughter is a
'human right', why should they be allowed to stop the labelling of such
meat and thus deny others of their rights to make an informed purchasing
choice? And yet, according to a House of Commons Research paper (1998),
proposals for labelling have been 'fiercely resisted'.