Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Halal and Kosher meat.

The method of animal slaughter used by Jews and Muslims should be banned immediately, according to an independent advisory group.

The Farm Animal Welfare Council (FAWC), which advises the government on how to avoid cruelty to livestock, says the way Kosher and Halal meat is produced causes severe suffering to animals.

Both the Jewish and Muslim religions demand that slaughter is carried out with a single cut to the throat, rather than the more widespread method of stunning with a bolt into the head before slaughter.

Kosher and Halal butchers deny their method of killing animals is cruel and have expressed anger over the recommendation.

'Clearly suffering'

FAWC said it wanted an end to the exemption currently allowed for Kosher and Halal meat from the legal requirement to stun animals first.

It says cattle can take up to two minutes to bleed to death - amounting to an abuse of the animals.

"This is a major incision into the animal and to say that it doesn't suffer is quite ridiculous," said FAWC chairwoman, Dr Judy MacArthur Clark.

Compassion in World Farming backed the call, saying: "We believe that the law must be changed to require all animals to be stunned before slaughter."

The Humanists movement, which has previously called for the abolition of ritual slaughter, said ethical values should be put above religious ones.

"There is no imperative for Muslims or Judaists to eat meat produced in this manner," said spokesman Roy Saich.

"There is no reason why they should not simply abstain from eating meat altogether if they do not wish to eat the same meat as the rest of us."

All slaughtered food animals bleed to death, but in this country's licensed abattoirs they are stunned and deeply unconscious before their throats are cut; here it is not by any means a flawless procedure and is not a method even the Americans would tolerate for dispatching criminals, but it is significantly less cruel and less prolonged.

Ashcochet, a Jewish slaughterman, it is said, undergoes rigorous training and is unlikely to be careless or deliberately cruel; even so, non-Jewish scientists examining shechita, while recording loss of evoked response in calves as swift as 20 seconds, also recorded intervals of as long as 385 seconds - that is more than six minutes - before the calf ceased the struggle to get to its feet.

The average period for calves observed by one scientist between the cut and the end of the struggle was 171 seconds - almost three minutes. This hardly confirms the Jewish claim that death is pretty well immediate and the animals scarcely feel a thing.

The figures for the halal slaughter of calves are much the same - the average 215 seconds between the cut and unconsciousness, the best figure 132 seconds (more than two minutes), the worst 297.

With halal, however, we have the complication of private slaughter, totally unskilled, usually of sheep, notoriously for Eid-el-Kebir, an annual Islamic feast, but also to bring a blessing, for example, on a new house.

A report on religious slaughter from the Farm Animal Welfare Council (FAWC), an independent advisory body established by government in 1979, is likely to pass unnoticed.

Its first report in 1985 concluded that halal and shechita should come to an end within three years. Nothing was done and they did not.

In 1992 a spokesman for the then Conservative administration wrote that the issue was "a fundamental matter of religious belief " and that ministers "must allow people the freedom to practise this aspect of their religion". It is, however, not a belief, but a mere practice that is contrary to the spirit and teachings of both the Bible and the Koran; this assertion will no doubt encourage readers to bandy quotations till Kingdom come, but I am adamant that neither canonical text encourages or condones cruelty to animals.

This is a perilous subject, not for the correspondence that it will engender, but for the accusations of racial and religious prejudice that are inevitable when anyone is rash enough to criticise religious slaughter.

I admit to a prejudice against cruelty to animals and if in this I cross swords with other races and religions, so be it, for in my plea for compassion I occupy a higher moral ground than those who elevate ancient laws of hygiene into articles of faith.

To eat a lamb chop a lamb must be killed, but I would rather that it had not been forced, terrified, onto a transporter and carried hundreds of miles to its death. I want my chicken to have something resembling a natural life and would rather wring its neck than have it die suspended by its feet from a conveyor belt.

We have, nevertheless, in this country, a long history of caring for the welfare of all animals. We no longer bait the bull and bear. The first Cattle Cruelty Act was passed in 1822.

Slaughterhouse conditions have been, admittedly irregularly, under review for almost two centuries, and shechita was permitted out of kindness and respect when the Jewish population was a tiny minority of 50,000 or so and no one thought it would increase.

Halal slaughter was accepted on the back of shechita and the demand for it must now satisfy a minority of millions.

Why should we surrender the majority to the customs of the incoming minorities. Would white Anglo-Saxons of Christian background be expected to accept without demur the sharia laws of Islam when we shed their Western equivalents centuries ago?

Why, then, must we tolerate halal slaughter and its Trojan Horse, shechita? FAWC again demands that we should not; FAWC is right; and the Government could do a great good by courageously obeying it.

Ask your supplier which of its products are Halal killed. Listen carefully to the response, many weasel words are used to avoid you finding out the truth.

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