THE BLOG

Again the Righteous Get on the Bandwagon as the Debate Over Halal and Kosher Slaughter Resurfaces

07/03/2014 11:08 GMT | Updated 07/05/2014 10:59 BST

Those who object to the cruelty involved in religious slaughter should think again.

Take John Blackwell, president-elect of the British Veterinary Association (BVA). He - supported by the BVA - is calling for a ban on halal and kosher slaughter unless Muslims and Jews agree to take up "more humane methods" and so put an end to "unnecessary suffering". This seems to suggest that when animals are stunned before being slaughtered (as is required by EU standards unless an exemption has been made on religious grounds) they suffer less.

Regulations require that vets are present when slaughterhouses are in operation. However their role is more about identifying diseased animals in the interest of food safety than the welfare of the animals. In fact concern for the animals seems not to count at all. It would, in any case, be difficult when numbers are so great. In the UK 22million animals are killed every day. In a year the number of meat chickens slaughtered is 931million (9,000 can be killed in one hour); pigs 8.5million; sheep 15million; and cattle 2.8million .

Each of these animals is an individual - no less capable of suffering than we are. How do they feel when they are rounded up, driven onto transporters at hectic speed, when crates and doors are slammed shut, when they are surrounded by the the smell of panic and fear to be then transported over long distances for many hours. When animals are slaughtered on an industrial scale there is no part of the procedure that is remotely humane.

The vets must know - given the frenzied speed at which animals are dispatched - that the likelihood of bungled stunning is inevitable. There is no shortage of undercover videos taken by animal welfare activists that show animals clearly aware as they struggle in terror. Like the animals destined for the halal and kosher markets these animals will also be conscious when their throats are cut. But they might take longer to bleed to death since, in accordance with EU regulations, only one jugular vein needs be cut whereas halal and kosher laws require that both jugular veins are severed which makes for a quicker death .

Halal slaughter involves saying a prayer of sacrifice in the name of Allah. The method is devised to cause a minimum of suffering. To this end it is stipulated that the knife must be sharp, the cut swift and deep - through the windpipe, the gullet and both jugular veins - so that blood loss is rapid and the sudden drop in blood pressure causes the animal to lose consciousness quickly. At least that is the theory. How, when animals are dispatched in such vast numbers there is time for the ritual aspect, let alone a quick, humane kill, is puzzling.

Anyone who takes Muslims and Jews to task for brutal methods of slaughter yet eats meat regardless of the suffering involved is no less callous. Does the matter of a few more seconds of suffering as they are slaughtered make much difference to the animals who, during their entire short lives, have been treated with unthinking savagery?

Secular or religious slaughter: is one really more barbaric than the other?