Proof of Pain Leads to Calls for Ban on Ritual Slaughter
An Animal Rights Article from


Tim Edwards on
October 2009

[Ed. Note: The more "scientific evidence" that animals feel pain that is presented, the more people will realize that preference for one "method of slaughter" over another is not the issue...The issue IS slaughter. All living beings experience pain and fear and happiness and joy. GO vegan!]

Scientists are used to being attacked by anti-vivisectionists for causing unnecessary suffering to animals in the course of research. But a new study into the pain felt by dying animals has animal rights groups on side – and has led to renewed calls for Islamic and Jewish slaughter rituals to be brought into line with secular practices.

UK law requires that all livestock be stunned prior to slaughter – with the exception of those animals intended for consumption by members of certain religions. Islamic halal and Jewish kashrut law require that animals are slaughtered by having their throat cut – a relatively slow means of death. The Sikh ritual – chatka – is much quicker when done correctly, involving a clean sword strike to the neck.

Practitioners of ritual slaughter say the animal must be alive to facilitate the draining of blood – and that throat slitting is humane.

But the new research suggests otherwise. Dr Craig Johnson and his colleagues at New Zealand's Massey University reproduced the Jewish and Islamic methods of slaughter in calves. The calves were first anaesthetized so although their pain responses could be detected, they wouldn't actually feel anything. They were then subjected to a neck incision. A pain response was detected for up to two minutes following the cut, although calves normally fall unconscious after 10 to 30 seconds.

The team then stunned the calves five seconds after cutting their throats: the pain signal detected by electroencephalography ceased immediately.

Johnson told the New Scientist he thought this work was "the best evidence yet that [ritual slaughter] is painful". However, he observed that the religious community "is adamant animals don't experience any pain so the results might surprise them".

The findings have earned Johnson the inaugural Humane Slaughter Award from the Humane Slaughter Association. Dr James Kirkwood, the charity’s chief executive, said: "This work provides significant support for the value of stunning animals prior to slaughter to prevent pain and distress."

Adam Rutherford, an editor of Nature, wrote on the Guardian website: "It suggests that the anachronism of slaughter without stunning has no place in the modern world and should be outlawed. This special indulgence to religious practices should be replaced with the evidence-based approaches to which the rest of us are subject."

Some European countries, such as Sweden, require all animals to be stunned before slaughter with no exception for religions. But such a ban in Britain would be hugely controversial – and would draw inevitable comparisons with the ban on kashrut enacted by Nazi Germany in 1933.

Johnson thinks the way forward is best exemplified by Muslims in New Zealand, who use a reversible form of electrical stunning that animals can recover from if they are not immediately slaughtered. This proves the animal is alive when killed and is therefore halal.

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