Is Stunning Animals used for Meat Haram?

| 06/01/2010 | Reply

The question of stunning animals used for halal meat has become
somewhat of buzzword amongst some UK Muslims. This is mainly due to
poor communication from the relevant bodies on the differences in
stunning techniques and what the shariah (and scholars of fiqh) actually say about the matter of stunning.

This short article outlines our approach to stunning. 

In short, Abraham Natural Produce would rather all animals were
slaughtered without stunning . However most abattoirs in the UK, unless
purpose built for halal slaughter, use stunning on animals. Where we
are based in the UK there are no Muslim abattoirs. We therefore have no
option but to stun our produce as only animals processed through
abattoirs can be sold for human consumption. On top of this we are
bound by organic standards which demand that any animal solds as
“organic” must be stunned before being stuck. The stun used is a very
low voltage that knocks the animal out for around 15-20 seconds. After
20 seconds it is potentially back to normal and during that 20 seconds
it is alive and breathing. This means that when the animal is cut it
still bleeds the animal properly. 

If any animal is stunned and as a consequence dies, it would be
haram to eat. However the chances of this happening are extremely slim
if not impossible. As we personally slaughter we are also able to see
if signs of life still exist in the animal and that it has been bled
properly.

Before starting this company we researched the area of stunning and
were confused by mixed messages. The popular belief that stunning
rendered meat as haram did not actually correspond to what scholars
have said. We therefore sought guidance from  trusted scholars. They,
in agreement with many others, concluded that the act of stunning does
not make meat haram as long as the animal is alive and the rules of
slaughter are adhered to.

The Halal Meat Authorities

Many people in the UK are now obsessed with the issue of stunning
having been given the impression that it is haram. What has in truth
happened is that some within a certain UK halal meat authority have
taken a disliking to stunning and as a consequence people have been
(mis)informed that it is totally haram. In fact, the meat is still
halal – all it means is that businesses can not get that authority’s
logo on their produce.

If one reads their literature or website carefully one will note
that they do not term stunned meat as haram anywhere. What one finds
is that they have implemented a “blanket policy” against stunning on
the basis that there may be some doubt over whether or not an animal is
alive at the time of slaughter. This shows that they agree that if a
stunned animal is alive at the time of slaughter it is halal.

We asked the authority, the Halal Monitoring Committee, for their
response on this matter and they kindly responded with the following
proving that just because an animal is stunned it is not haram:

HMC is erring the side of caution by adopting a blanket policy
to the issue of stunning and not certifying it. HMC has never claimed
that all animals die due to stunning or that stunning the animal
renders the animal Haram automatically
.”

The Arguments

Some of the reasoning used by voices against stunning is based around the following ayat of the Quran:

Forbidden to you (for food) are dead animal, blood, the flesh
of swine, and that over which has been invoked other than the name of
Allah, that which has been killed by strangling or by a violent blow or
by a headlong fall or by being gored to death, that which has been
partly eaten by a wild animal, unless you are able to slaughter (in due
form), and that which is sacrificed on stone (altars).”
(5:3)

The authorities argue that:

1) Research has shown that animals can and do die from stunning. If
an animal dies because of stunning it is haram to eat. As we can’t be
100% sure that the animal was alive at the time of slaughter we should
then avoid all stunned meat.

We are partly in agreement. However, as we work in an abattoir we
know from first hand experience that it is impossible for a lamb to die
from a low voltage stun. In addition, if we follow the logic that
because an animal may “possibly die” before slaughter we should not eat
it, then why do we not also apply that logic to the person slaughtering
the animal? They “possibly” did not follow the correct procedures for
the slaughtering in terms of carrying it out properly and as a result
we should consider the meat as haram. In fact the chances of this
happening are higher than an animal dying from stunning.

2) The ayah says, “forbidden to you is the blood to consume.” The
halal authorities state that blood is dangerous if left inside the
meat. Stunning can cause more blood to stay in the animal if the animal
dies before being slaughtered.

Again, this is only applicable to an animal that dies before
slaughter. It is not applicable to those that are still alive with
hearts pumping when slaughtered meaning the blood runs free from the
animal just as it would if it were alive. Furthemore, there is
independent research to suggest the bleeding of stunned animals is
equal to those on un-stunned.

3) The ayah says, “and an animal killed by a violent blow”. This is
compared to the act of stunning an animal and therefore invalidates it
being halal.

Anyone who works in an abattoir will tell you that when you stun a
lamb, there is absolutely no “blow” as this would make it impossible to
stun it. The tongs must be carefully placed on the head otherwise they
would not stay there.

Fatwa about Stunning

Some of the halal meat authorities have cited fatwa from scholars to
support their stance that it is haram. Upon closer inspection however
one finds that such fatwa are quoted out of context and not in full.

For example, one fatwa oft cited is that of Muhammad Usman,
Darul-Ifta, Jamia Sarul Uloom, Karachi. His fatwa has been used to say
that stunning is haram, whereas if one reads the fatwa in full you will
see that he in fact does not say it is haram at all but in fact that it
is completely halal. A few of his comments include:

“As for the ruling regarding the meat of an animal slaughtered in this way [meaning stunned], if the animal was definitely alive at the time of slaughter, and was slaughtered correctly, it would be considered Halal.”

“It is not correct to check some animals and deduce from this that
the rest were also alive.  In such a situation the meat of those
animals about which it is known with certainty or beyond reasonable
doubt that they were alive at the time of slaughter, and they were
correctly slaughtered , will be considered Halal.  And the meat of
those animals about which it is known (or there is a strong
possibility) that they were dead at the time of slaughter, or those
animals about which it is not possible to ascertain if they were dead
or alive at the time of slaughter, will not be considered Halal, and it
is not permissible to use such meat.”

“The jurists have mentioned many signs that can be taken as proof of
an animal being alive at the time of  slaughter, for example if the
animal bleeds at the time of slaughter like a living animal, or closes
its mouth or eyes, or pulls together its legs, or shows any kind of
movement, etc. Therefore, if the fact that the animal was alive can be
established in any way, it will be permissible to slaughter it, and its
meat will be considered Halal.  The observation of movement in the
animal, or establishing the fact that a pulse exists is sufficient to
prove an animal alive.”

For more legal opinions from scholars please read Fatwa on Stunning Animals.

Conclusion

As mentioned above, in an ideal world stunning would not be used. However the act of stunning according to the principles of fiqh
(jurisprudence) are not seen as rendering any meat haram as long as the
animal is treated well, alive at the time of slaughter and all other
necessary actions and conditions are carried out properly. This is the
position adopted by the majority of scholars including the late Zaki
Badawi and one adopted by the Halal Food Authority.

As a result all our meat is 100% halal – this is indisputable for
the simple reason that we know that every animal slaughtered is alive
at the time of slaughter.

In addition to being halal our meat has the extra benefits that it is tayyib
it has been ethically treated, free of injected hormones and alien
bodies, grazed on organic grass and slaughtered by someone who takes
the act seriously and conducts it according to the shariah.

Allah knows best.

Category: Europe, Meat & Poultry, Opinion, UK

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