The Banning of Halal and Kosher…

March 18, 2014 at 6:12 pm

I’m not sure if it’s just me being good at ignoring things or whether there’s been a genuine upturn in chatter on this subject, but either way I’ve seen a lot more calls to ban the practice of halal and kosher slaughter in the UK. I do have to say that I’d be all for a blanket ban on these slaughter practices if the following conditions were met:

  1. If the pro-banning campaigners demonstrated a genuine care for animal rights, which would in turn lead to;
  2. A complete ban of all animal slaughter in the UK at the same time.

So yes, if both conditions were met, of course I’d support any ban of Halal and Kosher slaughter. Of course that’s not going to happen, given that in January 2014 alone approximately 90 million live poultry were slaughtered (see here for data), that’s not even getting in to the number of pigs, cows, lamb, sheep, goats and ahem horses were slaughtered for our human consumption. I think at this point I should probably stress that I am by no means a vegetarian or vegan, but on the other hand I’m certainly not a rampant carnivore either.

This entire debate around Halal/Kosher doesn’t stem from genuine animal rights concerns at all and, whilst many will be tempted to do this, I don’t even think I could attribute it to Islamophobia either. What it boils down to is a mixture of the misplaced fear that Islam wants to conquer the United Kingdom, enforce ‘our rules’ (whatever they are) upon the native population and enslave them into ‘our way of life’ (again, not sure what that is) and protectionism from Vets and Farmers who delight in eating meat but want some form of ban to placate animal rights activists . The fact that Kosher has been brought in to this debate, and I’ve never, ever seen anyone do this until very recently, seems to be a cynical attempt to legitimise the campaign and give it the appearance of an animal welfare one.

If it were a serious campaign with deep-rooted animal welfare concerns attached to it, surely the campaign would also seek to tackle ‘non-halal/kosher’ slaughter too, given that there isn’t really a humane way to kill any animal for its meat. Besides, given that there about 3 million declared Muslims and Jews living in Britain, leaving about 57 million non-Muslims/Jews, it should become fairly clear that the overwhelming majority of meat available for consumption in the UK is not ‘sacrificed’ by religious methods at all.

Couple that with the fact that scientists just can’t agree on which method of slaughter is more or less humane than the other, you must begin to see that arguments against Halal and Kosher are paper-thin and constructed upon a destructive concoction of fear, hatred and misinformation. The standard method of slaughter is often overlooked, do you know how your meat is killed? It is done using a bolt-gun and the method is described in some detail here. To take a little passage from that:

 ”The stunner uses a pointed bolt which is propelled by pressurized air or a blank cartridge. The bolt penetrates the skull of the animal, enters the cranium, and catastrophically damages the cerebrum and part of the cerebellum. Due to concussion, destruction of vital centres of brain and an increase in intracranial pressure, the animal loses consciousness. This method is currently the most effective type of stunning, since it physically destroys brain matter (increasing the probability of a successful stun), while also leaving the brain stem intact (thus ensuring the heart continues to beat during the bleed. This however has no bearing on the efficacy or speed of the bleed, as cardiac output requires a venous return, as venous supply is severed, this does not occur. The bleed hence relies on gravity and not a heartbeat). One disadvantage of this method is that brain matter is allowed to enter the blood stream, possibly contaminating other tissue with bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE, colloquially known as mad cow disease).”

Forgive me, but if one is to argue that halal and kosher slaughter is inhumane, how can one simultaneously argue that bolt-guns aren’t?

I don’t know an awful lot about Shechita (Jewish method), but I do know a fair bit about Dhabiha (Islamic Method) and if the rules are followed correctly, the entire lifetime of an animal being reared for slaughter is far, far better. For instance, if one is genuinely concerned about animal welfare, why then do conventional slaughterhouses allow animals to see other animals being slaughtered? For Dhabiha to be considered Halal, the animal has to be cared for during the process, it cannot see the blade until the very last moment, must not be under the impression it’s about to be killed and must be kept calm at all times. When the cut is delivered, it is a single incision to the carotid artery, preventing blood from reaching the brain.

Perhaps why this might seem humane is the fact that you can hear and see the blood gushing out of the animal, it’s a sickening and disgusting image, whereas the conventional method used smashes through the skull of the animal and tears the brain to pieces so you can’t really see much and it doesn’t look quite so disgusting. But appearances aren’t everything, and whilst scientists are not in agreement over which is more or less humane, to call for a ban to one and not the other is the epitome of hypocrisy.

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