Both ha­lal, kosher are not enough to pro­tect an­i­mals


Sev­eral weeks ago, a video sur­faced on the In­ter­net, doc­u­ment­ing out­ra­geous an­i­mal abuse at a “ha­lal” slaugh­ter­house in North York­shire, Eng­land.

A sin­gle view­ing of the video is enough to make the most com­pul­sive meat-eater drop the steak knife, and re-ex­am­ine what “ha­lal” means to us.

For those of us who have grown up watch­ing an­i­mals bleat­ing and thrash­ing their legs as they are slaugh­tered in the front porches of our homes, the video may be only a de­gree and-ahalf above our thresh­old of tol­er­ance.

It de­picts work­ers an­grily throw­ing and kick­ing sheep across the abat­toir floor, some­times even cheer­ing as they slit the an­i­mals’ throats (of­ten in mul­ti­ple at­tempts).

In the United King­dom, a coun­try where up to 88 per­cent of the an­i­mals are “stunned” be­fore be­ing slaugh­tered, the up­roar was ground-shak­ing.

Prac­tic­ing Mus­lims around the world, es­pe­cially in nonIs­lamic coun­tries, take great pains to en­sure that the food they’re con­sum­ing is ha­lal.

I’ve met con­ser­va­tive Mus­lim friends in Europe deny­ing them­selves ketchup, and al­to­gether avoid­ing restau­rants where non-ha­lal food is served, for fear of it be­ing pre­pared in the same cook­ware as pork.

Sim­i­lar care is taken by peo­ple of the Jewish faith. Such are the similarities be­tween the re­li­gious de­mands of each group that less dis­cern­ing Mus­lims in West­ern states have a rule of thumb that “kosher” food is per­mis­si­ble for them to eat, as “ha­lal” food is per­mis­si­ble for Jewish peo­ple.

Re­gret­tably, when we say “ha­lal,” we fo­cus solely on the method of slaugh­ter — the cor­rect rit­ual of zibah by the Mus­lims, and sche­chita by the Jews.

The pre­oc­cu­pa­tion with the rit­ual leaves lit­tle at­ten­tion to be paid to the en­vi­ron­men­tal and eth­i­cal costs of our de­mands.

Mod­er­ate Mus­lims gen­er­ally agree that hu­mane pro­duc­tion is an in­te­gral part of what makes meat “ha­lal.”

The­o­ret­i­cally, the an­i­mal must be killed as swiftly and pain­lessly as pos­si­ble, as long as the blood loss isn’t ar­rested.

In con­trast to that ideal, The Tele­graph re­ported a sharp rise in an­i­mal slaugh­ter with­out pre-stunning in the UK, al­legedly due to stronger cam­paign­ing by Mus­lims for tra­di­tional slaugh­ter prac­tices.

Mean­while, the Dan­ish gov­ern­ment put its foot down, and re­voked the re­li­gious ex­emp­tion to the law re­quir­ing an­i­mals to be stunned be­fore slaugh­ter.

Fight­ing the dual charge of anti-Semitism and Is­lam­o­pho­bia, Min­is­ter for Food and Agri­cul­ture Dan Jor­gensen un­apolo­get­i­cally stated that “an­i­mal rights come be­fore reli­gion.”

Although con­demned by the con­ser­va­tives as an attack on re­li­gious val­ues, most pro­gres­sive Mus­lims seem to be in agree­ment with the Dan­ish gov­ern­ment.

Af­ter all, how does it re­flect on one’s faith to stand be­fore the court de­mand­ing to be ex­empted from laws pre­vent­ing an­i­mal cru­elty, ar­gu­ing that one’s (in­ter­pre­ta­tion of) reli­gion man­dates said cru­elty?

This is not to say that an­i­mal abuse is the fief of the ha­lal or kosher meat in­dus­try. We have enough footage of an­i­mal abuse in regular slaugh­ter­houses to prove an epi­demic of apathy for the process that turns a non-hu­man crea­ture into a patty to grace those lonely sesame-buns.

As I or­der a bowl of mut­ton curry at a restau­rant, I may have a list of con­cerns about its price, taste, calo­rie count, gluten con­tent, ge­net­i­cally-mod­i­fied in­gre­di­ents and whether the meat comes from an an­i­mal slaugh­tered in a rit­ual con­sis­tent with my re­li­gious val­ues; the suf­fer­ing of the an­i­mal whose rem­nant lies be­fore me as my ca­sual meal, sel­dom ap­pears on that list.

Clearly, we aren’t be­ing picky enough about what we eat.

It may be time for a more com­pre­hen­sive def­i­ni­tion of “per­mis­si­ble” food, which as a mat­ter of de­cency, should flatly ex­clude the meat of an­i­mals that are not treated hu­manely.

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