Opinion: Halal slaughter: Islamic Method vs Western Method

I have read with a great interest the published report in the Financial Times on Tuesday, June 28th under the title “Dutch vote bans ritual slaughter By Matt Steinglass in The Hague”

Comment by Dr Jawad Hidmi (PhD) on 03 Aug, 2011

Zabh Halal VS Stunning Method
“Dutch vote bans ritual slaughter”

I also followed the bitter debates in the Dutch parliament during the previous period, with some details and I have the desire to comment on both.

The following comments will support the scientific point of view and will be based only on the scientific explanation and evidence, away from religion, belief and doctrine. Also away from politics. I’m not either a man of religion or a man of politics but a man of science.

Because the above subject (ritual slaughter) coincides with my field of specialization (Applied Poultry Science & Pathology). Then there are two main themes I’m always dealing with directly, human health in one hand and animal welfare on the other hand. I consider myself as one of the supporters and defenders on the issue of animal welfare as well as on the issue of human health.

I am addressing with this scientific comment, the Members of the Dutch parliament in different parties. The Dutch consumers in general. And the Islamic and Jewish communities in the Netherlands, since the Netherlands’ parliament vote on ban to non-anaesthetized slaughter of animals is considered as a move that will make the Islamic Halal and Jewish kosher methods of slaughter illegal.

1. Out of personal convictions and the scientific background. The ritual slaughter regardless of the mechanism used, should take into consideration, two fundamental principles. Firstly with regard to human health. And secondly with regard to animal welfare. Thus, there must not be one of them at the expense of the other, I mean, animal welfare should not be at the expense of the general human health, And vice versa.

2. Human health

A) Purifying animal meat
Animal meat is purified by draining away the impure blood. It’s a scientific fact! But why?
Blood carries nutrients and chemicals to the tissues and brings back the waste products of tissue metabolism into the circulation. These waste products of tissue metabolism are harmful to the body and are separated from the blood in the kidney. The concentrated solution of these harmful chemicals is excreted in the form of urine. Urine is thus part of fluid blood.

B) What are the Physical, Physiological and Psychological Requisites for purifying animal meat?
If the objective is to drain away all the fluid blood in the circulation, then what are the physiological and anatomical requisites? It is obvious that blood contained in a closed circuit can only be let out by cutting the blood vessels. Deployment of an incision to cut, vessels and the overlying skin is therefore absolutely essential. The larger the blood vessel, and greater number that is cut open, greater will be the amount of blood poured out through them. It is also obvious that the best place anatomically to cut these vessels is the neck where four major vessels are accessible, lying not far from the skin. It is also evident that the longer the heart beats from the moment the vessels are cut open and the more strongly it beats, the greater will be the blood loss.

Conversely the animal which is half dead will bleed only half the time. It is also understandable that the stronger the suction effects of the lungs in the form of rapid and deep breathing greater will be the amount of blood sucked into the heart from the periphery, in turn to be pumped out, and thus thrown out of the body. Rapid breathing also assures adequate oxygenation of tissues and prevents stagnant an anoxia (lack of oxygen) which interferes with the P.H. of the tissues. P.H. of the blood is very important in extracting the blood from the tissues and influences the keeping quality of the meat. It is also conceivable that the squeezing action of the muscles on the blood vessels is essential to pour out the last drop of blood. All these factors are operative only, and only when the blood vessels in the neck are severed while the animal is conscious with:
1- a normal vaso motor centre,
2- a normal heart and normal circulatory
3- a normal respiratory centre.
4- an active spinal cord. (The brain and spinal cord together make up the central nervous system)
Scientists of physiology would appreciate that effective ritual slaughter should induces haemorrhagic shock, in which all the fluid blood is attracted into the circulation and escapes through the cut vessels, whereas the opposite happens when the animals are stunned first. Stunning, thus, in addition to being painful (will be clarified later in some details ) is less efficient way of bleeding. In stunning the animal cannot be bled unless the animal is brought under control by which time the animal could be dead (its heart stopped due to shock) there is then no point in bleeding.

C) What Arterial Baroreceptors is?
Arterial baroreceptors are vitally important in the short term (seconds to minutes) control of meanarterial pressure (MAP) but are unimportant in determining the long-term level of MAP. This based primarily on two observations: first, those baroreceptors rapidly reset to the prevailing level of MAP and second, that total baroreceptor enervation has no lasting effect on the average daily MAP, although the variability of MAP is increased dramatically. This is the similar case when slaying animals and in purifying process of the meat from the blood, in a very short term (seconds to minutes). The Arterial Baroreceptors & MAP have thus a very essential action during effective ritual slaughter.

3. Animal welfare

A) Pain in ritual slaughter
So far we have discussed the hygienic principle should be involved in any ritual slaughter. Let us now determine to what extent it can be painful (cruel). How much painful is the method, only Allah the Creator of the animal (and the animal which undergoes the operation while being disposed) knows, but we (humans) can ascertain pain from ritual slaughter by considering how much painful similar process would be if inflicted on us, in the light of anatomical and physiological bases of perception of pain.
Painful stimuli arise from the skin and some deeper structures and are perceived in the brain. From the point of pain we have to consider,(1)Cut on the neck (2) bleeding and (3) convulsions.

It is generally known that we do not perceive accidently cutting ourselves during shaving with a sharp new blade until after it has happened when the bleeding draws our attention to it. Similarly the quick cut on the skin of the animal should be imperceptible while being inflicted. We also know too well the difference between the smooth shave with the new blade and one with the blunt blade. Hence it is essential that the knife should be sharp. The cut by the blade during shaving bleeds very little as only tiny capillaries are cut and we feel the pain because our brain is perceptive.

In the animal the cut also severs four major blood vessels in the neck, through them so much blood is lost so quickly that the animal faints and the sensation of pain in the sensory centre of the animal’s brain is abolished. If the cut were to be made away from these major vessels it would be painful and that is the reason that cutting on the back first and then extending it to involve the blood Vessels on the front of the neck is abominable and painful. (Spinal cord & brain should keep active – automatic cutter will cut the spinal column & stop the nervous system).

We can also assess the pain on ritual slaughter through another example more technical than the first, the operation of making a hole in the wind pipe known as tracheostomy. This operation can be done even under local anaesthesia (that is, while the patient is conscious.)

In this operation an incision should be used to the effective ritual slaughter, i.e.: to cut the skin and tissues in front of the wind pipe. The patient is given drugs to allay anxiety and fear and to dull the sensation of pain; in addition anaesthetic solution is injected locally under the skin. In animals, both these measures are not practicable – not desirable and unsafe to make meat drugged and really not required. In the operation of tracheastomy on man technique is employed to minimize the bleeding contrary to what is done in the effective ritual slaughter. The bleeding (severe haemorrhage) resulting from the very first incision, acts as a pain killer by inducing anoxia (lack of oxygen) of the brain cells.
Consciousness and insensitivity to pain should not be confused; in the example the patient is conscious but insensitive to pain.

A horizontal incision is used not only for cosmetic reason but also because it involves only one segment of the spinal column and less painful than the vertical involving more than one segment. In animals horizontal incision is more appropriate to sever the vertically running blood vessels. It is also less painful. In the operation, the solution is injected mainly under the line of incision. Similarly, in animals, only the area representing the area of the wound in its brain needs be put out while severe bleeding neutralizes the whole of the sensory centre, there is thus considerable margin of safety.

The above assessment of pain is on the assumption that animals are as sensitive to pain as is man, but we know that this is not the case. The skin from which painful stimuli arise and the site of their perception, the brain are qualitatively different in man and animal.

From the point of pain even humans are not equally sensitive. Some are insensitive some are even born without sensation of pain. We also know that in the same person the face is far more sensitive than the feet (soles). Generally speaking, the thicker the skin, the less sensitive it is. In the case of animals all are far thicker skinned anatomically and metaphorically than the thickest skinned man. Whereas man is invariably conscious of the inevitability and significance of death animals lack such apprehension, unless they are badly handled and feel menaced.

The brain of the animal is devoid of sense of apprehension and the effect of pain, like the well sedated brain of the patient undergoing an operation under local anaesthesia or like the brain of human without the frontal lobes (after leukotomy).

In summary, if anaesthesia is the controlled production of unconsciousness, then which ritual slaughter is considered as the method par excellence for animals? In effective ritual slaughter (haemorrhagic shock) the depth of unconsciousness increases with continued bleeding.

B) Pain during bleeding.
Is bleeding painful? It is not; if it were very few would be prepared to be bled to donate blood.

C) Pain of convulsions.
The rhythmic movements of the body of the animal are known as convulsions. Physiologically convulsions are the confirmative symptom of hypoxia of the brain (decrease in oxygen supply). When patients suffer from epilepsy, it is a common knowledge that the sufferer becomes unconscious first and then convulses and hurt themselves but they do not remember hurting themselves. As far as bleeding and convulsions are concerned, it can be said that the cruelty lies in the eyes of the beholder – unaware of the physiological principles.

Convulsions are very essential for wringing the meat of blood. Convulsions do not occur if the spinal cord is cut. Cutting the spinal cord is painful as well. This is why cutting the spinal cord or breaking the neck is abominable. In the abattoirs convulsions do not allow the operator to dress the animal, they have to wait till the convulsions die down. This waste of time is uneconomical to the industry. This is the reason that spinal cord is destroyed in commercialized slaughter houses. Economy of time is also the real reason in adopting pistol which not only stuns but renders the animal unconscious immediately after besides it’s painful (any one of us can imagine who much pain will feel when touch an electrical current even with low voltage or inserting pin in his or her finger.

4. Stunning and bleeding.

All methods of stunning produce neurogenic shock, a condition in which blood leaves the circulation. Bleeding produces haemorrhagic shock where the blood is withdrawn from the tissues into the circulation. Bleeding by “knife” with normal circulation therefore is the most efficient way of extracting blood from meat.

The undeniable fact which emerges from the history of mechanical stunners is that after more than half a century’s experimentation there is not a single one which is safe to use. That does not mean that this is a denial of scientific advancement. There has been considerable scientific advancement from the primitive methods of stunning used for humans to modern methods of anaesthetizing but while humans are anaesthetized before the operation the animals are still stunned.

The advances in anaesthesia cannot be applied to the animal in their present form nor is there any desire to apply because of the cost involved. If the hygienic considerations were set aside or solved, then Muslims, I believe Jews too, would have no objection in anaesthetizing the animals before bleeding. If the avowed object is humaneness to the individual animal than in the final analysis using the (knife) to produce severe bleeding remains the only humane method of killing animal for food.

The scientific know-how can still be applied in improving the mechanics of the method e.g. transportation of animal, place for rest, feeding and watering the animals – manufacturing sharp knives, improving methods of their preservation construction of moving platforms to take the animal to the place of killing etc. The persons in charge of applying slaughtering method (Zabh or Kosher) are usually well trained persons, following a quick operation and fast cutting using very sharp knives.
Statement made by Lord Horder, G.C.V.O., M.D., F.R.C.P.

“Careful and critical scrutinizing of this method of slaughtering leaves me in no doubt whatever that it is fraught with less risk of pain to the animal than any other method at present practiced”.
Statement made by Sir C. A. Lovatt Evans, D.Sc. F.R.S.
(Emeritus Professor of Physiology, London University)

“My opinion as a physiologist is that I should think this method is as humane as any other method in use or likely to be brought into use for the purpose. To consider that the animal suffers appreciable pain is, in my opinion, quite absurd. I consider the method to be equal to any”.
German Research Studies Pain
Professor Wilhelm Schulze and his colleague Dr. Hazim
School of Veterinary Medicine, Hannover University in Germany.

It therefore may come as a surprise to those who have made such acclimations to learn of the results of a study carried out by Professor Wilhelm Schulze and his colleague Dr. Hazim at the School of Veterinary Medicine, Hannover University in Germany. The study: ‘Attempts to Objectify Pain and Consciousness in Conventional (captive bolt pistol stunning) and Ritual (halal, knife) Methods of Slaughtering Sheep and Calves’ concludes that Islamic slaughtering is the most humane method of slaughter and that captive bolt stunning, practiced in the West, causes severe pain to the animal. (To view the detailed results of the study see www.eathalal.com/articles/islamicslaughter.shtml <http://www.eathalal.com/articles/islamicslaughter.shtml>  ).

The results were as follows:
I – Islamic Method
1. The first three seconds from the time of Islamic slaughter as recorded on the EEG did not show any change from the graph before slaughter, thus indicating that the animal did not feel any pain during or immediately after the incision.
2. For the following 3 seconds, the EEG recorded a condition of deep sleep – unconsciousness. This is due to the large quantity of blood gushing out from the body.
3. After the above-mentioned 6 seconds, the EEG recorded zero level, showing no feeling of pain at all.
4. As the brain message (EEG) dropped to zero level, the heart was still pounding and the body convulsing vigorously (a reflex action of the spinal cord) driving a maximum amount of blood from the body thus resulting in hygienic meat for the consumer.

II – Western method by C.B.P. Stunning
1. The animals were apparently unconscious soon after stunning.
2. EEG showed severe pain immediately after stunning.
3. The hearts of animals stunned by C.B.P. stopped beating earlier as compared to those of the animals slaughtered according to the Islamic method resulting in the retention of more blood in the meat. This in turn is unhygienic for the consumer.

Dr Jawad Hidmi (PhD)