GOING FOR THE KILL - REPORT ON RELIGIOUS SLAUGHTER
By Juliet Gellatley, BSc (Zoology), Director of Viva!
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 Slaughter
The slaughtermen will be referred to by first name only in this report.
"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 all.
"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."
"Jewish 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 book".
"Kosher 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 most Muslims.
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 work anyway".
"The 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 interested.
"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 day.
"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 stunned:
"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 they're killed.
"I started when I was nine years old (early thirties now) ~ I got out when I had children. It changes your attitude to life".
Is a 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 stunned:
"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 wrong position".
"I am 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 me.
"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 knife.
"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 afterwards?
"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 them.
"Ritual slaughter should be banned - there is no excuse for it".
Viva! Video of Jewish Slaughter
Viva! has 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 case.
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 does).
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 Slaughter
The Farm 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 vessels.
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 Jews." (4)
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 case.
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 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.
As previously 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 blessing.
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 cutting
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".
The UK 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) is:
"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 beliefs...
"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 said:
"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.
Scientific 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 anoxia."
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 normally.
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 severed 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.
Arterial 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 collapsing.
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.
It is also a problem in mainstream slaughter as, for example, calves start to regain consciousness between 21 and 59 seconds after electrical stunning.
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)
Thornton's 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".
This explains why "some cattle have regained their feet and walked a considerable distance before they succumbed some minutes later."
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." (4)
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 animal conscious.
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 world.
This slaughter is described as 'ritual' by Ahmad. He says:
"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 slaughterThis 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 killing fields.
Rosie Catford describes the festival that took place outside of Paris in 1996 in Viva!Life (19). She says:
"As we 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 liners...
"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 meaning."
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 these discussions:
"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 effective action.
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 kill.)
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 method.
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.) (4)
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 right.
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 call.
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'.
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