Its Time To Start the Islamic Age of Enlightenment on Animal Welfare Grounds

Halal slaughter seems to have hit the news.

In any non-halal slaughterhouse these images would almost certainly result in criminal prosecutions under animal welfare legislation.  For our Muslim brethren it does not simply because the Koran says that Muslims must eat Halal meat and is therefore excluded from the legislation (as is Kosher slaughter, but as there are almost 10 times as many Muslims as Jews in the UK its Halal that is the big one).  Why on earth does a tradition that predates modern technology constitute a get out of jail free card in a secular Christian country?  Does multi-culturalism mean that we take the lowest common denominator of all the religions we choose to recognise, and apply that?  If it does how come we have CERN (which pretty much proves the Big Bang, so no Garden of Eden), aeroplanes and a heliocentric model of our part of the universe?

The Koran is believed to have been completed in early 7th Century, which is not so long after the First Council of Nicea that formalised part of Christianity.  The problem is that while Christians entered the age of enlightenment in the 17th Century, with the eventual triumph of science and reason over dogma, the Muslim world hasn’t got there yet.  The net result is that we are allowing cruelty to animals because of Muslim ignorance.  For some reason we campaign and legislate vigorously against Female Genital Mutilation (another barbaric religious and cultural practice), but grant Muslims an exemption.  Why?

The purpose of Halal slaughter is achieving exsanguination of the animal’s carcass, which requires the heart to keep pumping until all the blood has left the body via an incision in the jugular vein (and often carotid arteries as well).  For some reason some (not all) Muslims object to the animal being stunned and thus anaesthetized before exsanguination, which is the standard slaughter process in the UK, and the rest of the world for that matter.

In a normal UK slaughterhouse, stunning is achieved either by electric shock or a captive bolt.  The unconscious animal is then transferred to the exsanguination process.  If you visit one, as I have, you will see that the animals are suffer no distress until as they see no carcasses and smell no blood.

The fact is that during one week in 2011 according to a Foods Standard Agency survey, 88% of all Halal meat produced came from carcasses that were stunned before slaughter.  Why is the other 12% permitted?

I found the TV footage abhorrent and find it hard to accept that any plant could operate in such a barbaric manner.  I suspect that this is an exceptionally lax Halal abattoir which is seeking to keep its operating costs down by using obsolete equipment and poorly trained staff.  It should not be allowed to hide behind the Halal fig leaf; its owners and operators should be prosecuted.

I see no reason why in a modern 21st Century country we need to accept food hygiene and slaughter processes developed 1,400 years ago.  The net result is the same, an exsanguinated, healthy carcass.  If an Imam (or Rabbi, Kosher meat has the same problem) wants to make an argument why their interpretation of their religion finds that their God wants them to persist with a potentially cruel slaughter process when better methods which produce the same results are available then bring it on.

To their credit, the RSPCA opposes un-stunned slaughter (which includes other religious slaughter processes) and now has the necessary 100,000 names to enable them to demand a House of Commons debate.

Now the calculation in Westminster runs will seek to balance upsetting the 2.7 million Muslims and 350,000 Jews in the UK against suffering the abuse of the RSPCA (30,000 members but £100 million in public donations last year).  No doubt the average MP will find some reason to be elsewhere, looking for his or her backbone.

But they would be missing an opportunity.  The 12% of Muslims who are demanding un-stunned Halal meet are quite likely to be those at the conservative end of the Muslim spectrum.  Equate them with Pope Urban VIII, for whom Galileo was such a problem.  In the end, Galileo and science defeated dogma and repression.  This could possibly be a similar moment for Moslems.

I believe that MPs should debate this. I think that they will find that there is no good reason to kowtow to an obsolete dogma and should therefore give Muslims the option of either standardising on humanely slaughtered meat, going veggie or leaving the UK.  The problem with multi-culturalism is that it is not viable for the 5% to demand a process that 95% find abhorrent.  A line has to be drawn somewhere; animal welfare is a good place to start.

I am writing to my MP in these terms.  I suggest that you do too.