Halal slaughter has once again stirred emotion. A study questioning the humaneness of not routinely stunning animals before cutting their throats has elicited further moral outrage. But doesn’t reserving hysteria only for halal miss the point entirely in the context of the wider meat industry? It’s a distraction from the real issue: that we slaughter animals at all.
Debate around the ethics of pre-slaughter stunning versus halal slaughter is simply not worth having. It is nothing more than an argument for or against varying shades of heinous; a redundant and irrelevant comparison.
Stunning is often ineffective anyway, leaving the animals to die slowly in a semi-conscious state. Yet this is widely considered to be “humane”, especially by the anti-halal faction. Humane slaughter – now there’s an oxymoron if ever there was one. It is a myth, and does not exist.
Regardless of the farming system used – whether organic, free range, halal, kosher – it doesn’t matter; animals will always be denied even their most basic needs. They live shortened lives of pain and suffering without any kind of freedom.
We mustn’t forget that animal agriculture is an industry. It places profit as a priority, and like any other industry it cuts corners and costs, with scant regard for the animals themselves. They are treated like commodities, products, numbers and money.
We can see quite clearly from the halal debate that the actual method of killing has become the only issue for lots of people. But it is actually just one part of a long and brutal meat production process. It’s merely the end point of a miserable existence. Animals are generally separated from their mothers at birth, fed unnatural foods and kept in cramp, squalid conditions largely indoors only to die a painful death. It’s no life.
Exposed footage from a halal slaughterhouse in Yorkshire last year was horrific. But was it any worse than daily practices across non-halal abattoirs up and down the country? Absolutely not. Such atrocities are not anomalies but rampant throughout UK animal agriculture, which purports to have the best welfare standards in the world. Sadly, this says more about other countries than it does about this one.
In addition, it was revealed just this week the filthy conditions endured by supermarket hens.
It’s not just about the animals. Spare a thought for abattoir workers. They see death and brutality every working day, doing the actual killing so you don’t have to. The only possible coping mechanism is to emotionally detach from the animals as living, sentient beings.
Research has shown that slaughterhouse workers often suffer psychological damage. It should come as no surprise or coincidence that when a slaughterhouse is built, the rates of domestic abuse, sexual assault and drug and alcohol offences in the surrounding area rise considerably.
There may also be a degree of Islamophobia at play here. Reporting on the study, The Times ran the headline “Animals dying in pain because of Islam ignorance over stunning”. It implies that animals who are stunned die pain free, and that animals are only dying in pain because of Islam ignorance.
Neither is true, of course.
The point is that no one, religious or otherwise, needs to slaughter animals for food. It’s not necessary in this age. We know that a plant-based diet can contain everything we need for great health at any age and life stage – that’s the position of the British Dietetic Association, the qualified experts in this country.
If slaughter of any kind horrifies you, or even just makes you feel a little uneasy, then there is only one rational, reasonable solution: stop eating meat.
Jimmy Pierson is the media manager and spokesperson for the Vegan Society
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