Wednesday, 16 November 2016

Ritual Slaughter

Been seeing a few posts on Facebook about banning Halal slaughter, with some vociferous comments that appear to be based more on Islamophobia than concern for animal welfare.

There was a very famous experiment conducted in the 70s by Wilhelm Schultz of Hannover University which concluded that ritual slaughter produces no pain, whereas bolt stunning did and our views are clouded by the feelings for people, not animals:

"Not all is what it seems, then. Those who want to outlaw Islamic slaughter, arguing for a humane method of killing animals for food, are actually more concerned about the feelings of people than those of the animals on whose behalf they appear to speak. The stunning method makes mass butchery easier and looks more palatable for the consumer who can deceive himself that the animal did not feel any pain when he goes to buy his cleanly wrapped parcel of meat from the supermarket. Islamic slaughter, on the other hand, does not try to deny that meat consumption means that animals have to die, but is designed to ensure that their loss of life is achieved with a minimum amount of pain."

That's borne out by the number of times I've cut myself, quite deeply, without even being aware of it until I saw the blood over the floor. Admittedly that was a cut vein and not an artery, but can it be so different?

However, a more recent study by CB Johnson in New Zealand concluded the opposite, but the literature is littered with the word 'likely':

"The precise assessment of the point after slaughter at which non-stunned animals become insensible remains a major methodological challenge. In sheep it is at least 2–8 seconds, but may be 8–20 seconds in duration. In cattle the mean duration is similar, but can commonly be extended to longer than 60 seconds with occasional instances of even greater durations. Taken together, these findings indicate that because the slaughter of cattle, sheep and goats by ventral-neck incision without prior stunning is likely to cause pain, this poses a risk to animal welfare."

The Roman senatorial class' preferred method of committing suicide at the invitation of an Emperor (which couldn't be refused) was to sit in a warm bath and slit one's wrists. People having seen this method of suicide have said it was peaceful.

If you were to be topped, which would you prefer - slit an artery with a razor sharp knife and drift off, or a violent bolt on the head before being butchered? I suppose you could argue that expectation would colour your view. I think I'd prefer exsanguination - I don't know of anyone who has suffered a rugby concussion who didn't say it hurt.

There are undoubtedly good and bad slaughterhouses on both sides of the divide, and nothing should allow such slaughterhouses to survive.

Here's an interestsing paper on the subject so you can make up your own minds.

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