Religious or ritual slaughter (Halal and Kosher)


Most developed and many developing countries of the world require by law an animal to be rendered unconscious before it is slaughtered. This is in order to ensure that the animal does not suffer pain during slaughter. However, exceptions are made for the Jewish (Kosher) and Muslim (Halal) slaughter of livestock. Here stunning generally is not allowed and the animal is bled directly using a sharp knife to cut the throat and sever the main blood vessels. This results in sudden and massive loss of blood with loss of consciousness and death. However, many authorities consider that religious slaughter can be very unsatisfactory and that the animal may not be rendered unconscious and suffer considerable discomfort and pain in the slaughter process.

A number of factors must be given serious consideration before this type of slaughter is acceptable:

  • Animals that are slaughtered according to Kosher or Halal requirements should be securely restrained, particularly the head and neck, before cutting the throat. Movement results in a poor cut, bad bleeding, slow loss of consciousness (if at all) and pain. This has serious implications for animal welfare. The knife that is used to cut the throat and the carotid and jugular blood vessels must be razor sharp and without blemishes and damage. This is to ensure a swift, smooth cut across the throat behind the jaw and to ensure immediate and maximum gush of blood. Poor bleeding causes slow loss of consciousness and reduces meat quality.
  • Animals should not be shackled and hoisted before bleeding. This causes them severe discomfort and stress. Hoisting should be done only after the animal has lost consciousness Restraining equipment should be comfortable for the animal.
  • Operator competence is of great importance in order to carry out satisfactory religious slaughter, and the authorities should license all slaughter personnel. A poor technique will result in great suffering and cruelty to the animal. Religious slaughter should be carried out paying attention to detail and ensuring the method, equipment and operators are correct. The slaughter process is slow.

The captive bolt gun is suitable for this stunning when using the mushroom shaped head of the bolt. The mushroom gun is an improvement on the plain bolt, as this bolt does not penetrate the brain and cause death. This should be more acceptable to the religious authorities, and its use would encourage more humane slaughter amongst Muslims in developing countries, thereby improving animal welfare.

Fortunately, many Muslim authorities accept some forms of pre-slaughter stunning. Many Muslim authorities permit electric stunning of cattle, sheep and poultry, whose meat is destined for Muslim communities, because the animals subjected to this stunning method would recover if no bleeding was carried out. Electric stunning is also the method of choice in meat exporting countries where stunning of slaughter animals is required by law, for export to Muslim countries. Similarly, Muslim minorities in countries with stringent animal welfare regulations are allowed to use Halal slaughter methods, but in combination with electrical stunning.

Any kind of prestunning for livestock to be slaughtered according to the Jewish Kosher method has not yet been accepted.


Last modified: Tuesday, 5 June 2012, 11:08 AM