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Islam provides us with guidelines for all aspects of life, and the same applies to our diet. What we can and cannot eat is clearly outlined in our religion. Likewise, Islam comprehensively lays out the method of sacrificing animals that are permissible to consume. Halal slaughter provides us with detailed instructions pertaining to how we should slaughter animals for the consumption of their meat. These laws apply to all the meat Muslims consume, whether it is the animal sacrifice of Eid Al-Adha, or simply meat that butchers sell for the purpose of eating.
Indeed, all Islamic laws aim to maximize benefit and lessen harm. Thus, the prescribed method of slaughtering animals in Islam must be followed by all believers. Doing so is necessary to avoid the harm that would result from failing to follow the Halal method. The harm that the slaughter incurs that doesn’t comply with Islam’s teachings largely consists of health risks and the suffering of animals due to the pain caused by non-Halal slaughter.
The Rules of Halal Slaughter (Zibah)
Firstly, we must slaughter the animal in accordance with Islamic laws. Muslims cannot consume any animal that people do not slaughter according to Islam’s rules of slaughter. Muslims cannot eat the meat of animals that die a natural death. Moreover, it is impermissible to consume the meat of animals that die of strangulation, or from being struck brutally or gored by another animal’s horns, or by falling headfirst. Animals that have been partially eaten by wild animals are also not to be eaten.
The Islamic method of slaughter necessitates that the butcher slaughters the animal with a cut to its neck that reaches through its trachea, esophagus, jugular veins, and carotid arteries. However, he must not sever the spinal cord. The Halal method of slaughter is certainly the most humane of all methods that butchers utilize for animal slaughter.
The Humane and Hygienic Aspect
When animal slaughter is carried out in accordance with Islamic teachings, it ensures that the suffering of the animal is minimized. Meanwhile, Halal slaughter also makes the animal’s meat fit for human consumption. Butchers cut the vessels of the neck quickly. This means that the blood flow to the nerves in the brain that deal with pain is disconnected. Therefore, the animal does not experience pain.
One may wonder why the animal continues to squirm and flail about if it doesn’t feel pain. The reason for the writhing of the dying animal is the contraction and easing of the muscles that lack blood. The thrashing movements of the animal also play a vital role in extracting maximum blood from its body. The thorough removal of blood from the animal’s body is crucial for the purification of its meat. This is because leftover blood in the animal can be a medium for microorganisms.
The freshness of the meat also lasts longer when the blood is let out as much as possible. As the knife severs the jugular veins and relevant arteries, blood rapidly flows out of the system. Hence, it becomes evident that the Islamic method of slaughter is optimal.
What are the modern methods of animal slaughter?
There are a variety of modern methods of slaughter, which tend to focus primarily on stunning the animal prior to its slaughter. The purpose of stunning is to make the animal unable to feel pain, although credible studies contradict this claim. The flawed premise of stunning is that the traditional Islamic way of slaughtering, and similar Jewish methods, cause great pain to the animal because it is not stunned before being slaughtered.
There are numerous ways in which people stun animals before slaughtering them. Some notable mechanical stunning methods include the driving of a bolt into the skull of the animal to stun it. This method is common in the case of farm animals. Then, there’s a form called concussion stunning, in which an instrument deals a blow to the animal’s head to concuss its brain. After they stun the animal, the next process is to cut off the blood supply to its brain. Then, they are bled, and the bleeding is what eventually results in their death.
There are also electric methods of stunning, such as head-only stunning. This method involves placing electric tongs are on the sides of the animal’s head. Then, that sends an electronic current through the animal’s brain. The electric current temporarily makes the animal unconscious. Cardiac arrest stunning is a form that involves the passing of an electric current through both the head and body of the animal.
People commonly use water bath stunning on chickens, turkeys, etc. This form of stunning involves birds being hung upside down and tied on a moving conveyor belt. That takes them over an electric water bath in which they submerge their heads, electrocuting them to cause their death by cardiac arrest. There’s also a stunning method that involves gassing birds to stun them.
Halal slaughter versus modern methods of slaughter
People have conducted credible studies to determine whether animals experience pain when butchers slaughter them, in the case of both Halal slaughter and slaughter according to modern techniques. These studies also mentioned how hygienic each form of animal slaughter was. In the case of animals slaughtered in accordance with Islamic law, researchers discovered that the animals did not suffer any pain in the first three seconds of the slaughter.
In the next three seconds, the animal was in a state of deep sleep, rendering it unconscious. The reason for this was the great amount of blood that gushed out of the animal’s body. After the first six seconds, there was no pain recorded. Furthermore, the heart continued to pound, and the body continued to thrash about due to a reflex action of the spinal cord. This helps to drain the maximum quantity of blood from the animal, which is a must for the meat to be hygienic for consumption.
Meanwhile, in the case of modern slaughtering methods, which utilize stunning, the animals were unconscious soon after stunning. However, they experienced intense pain right after the stunning. Moreover, their hearts stopped beating earlier than the hearts of animals slaughtered Islamically. This causes the animal to retain a greater amount of blood. The retention of blood in the animal’s meat is unhygienic and potentially harmful for the consumer.
The evidence clearly establishes the superiority of Halal slaughter. The animal suffers intense pain when slaughtered according to modern methods. Moreover, the Islamic method is far more hygienic due to its draining blood far more effectively from the meat. Hence, the arguments of those who deem Halal slaughter cruel and barbaric are emphatically refuted, and the superiority of the Islamic method is undeniable.
Why animals should not be stunned before Halal Zibah
There aren’t any specific prohibitions related to stunning animals before slaughtering them in Islam. However, it is something that should not be done. The evidence proves that stunning should not be incorporated into Halal slaughter. There are a number of reasons for this.
Firstly, there is the factor of pain. As the Prophet (PBUH) said in a Hadith in Sahih Muslim, we should slaughter animals in an ideal way. Islam is a religion that enjoins the kind and merciful treatment of all creatures. Our faith doesn’t permit us to cause needless harm and suffering to animals.
According to a Prophetic statement in Sahih Muslim, butchers must sharpen knives before using them to slaughter animals. Furthermore, they should not do this in front of animals, nor should they slaughter animals in front of another. All these Islamic teachings make it evident that there is no room for cruelty in Islam. Therefore, stunning, which has been proven to cause animals severe pain, is something that goes against Islam’s teachings of being merciful to animals.
Then, there’s the hygiene and health factor. The purity of the meat depends on the thorough removal of blood. It’s been proven that animals that have been stunned tend to retain a greater amount of blood than animals that have been slaughtered in a Halal way. This retention of blood is a hygiene risk, and certainly something that should be avoided.
Stunning can also lead to contamination of the animal’s meat, such as in the case of chickens being stunned in an electric water bath, in which chickens may defecate and then inhale the impure water. There is also a risk of animals dying prior to being slaughtered when they are stunned, which makes their meat impermissible to consume because it counts as carrion meat.
Just like all other Islamic laws, the Islamic ruling on animal slaughter comes from our All-Knowing Creator. Allah has complete Knowledge of what is and isn’t good for His creation. The flawed arguments against Halal slaughter are devoid of merit, and only those who stun animals can be rightfully accused of animal cruelty. Muslims are required to strictly adhere to Islam’s rules regarding slaughter, as the Islamic method of animal slaughter is the supreme method, just like all other Islamic laws are supreme and binding on us.