Opinion: Is the ECJ upholding the ban on unstun slaughter a double standard?

By Mahmoud Tatari, General Manager, Halal Control GmbH

Rüsselsheim, 22nd December 2020. Halal Control (HC) Germany: The European Union’s top court the European Court of Justice (ECJ) has deemed non stun halal and kosher slaughter incompatible with animal welfare. Halal Control rates the decision as disastrous with the signal it is sending out.

Is it appropriate, in some way, to discredit entire religious communities as unethical by a verdict? Unethical practices or even cruelty towards animals are disapproved and condemned in all religions of the world, as well as in Islam. Rather, we have to fundamentally ask ourselves whether meat production on an industrial scale can even support animal welfare and whether it is ethical.

The impression arises that a double standard is being applied here. The ban on non stun halal and kosher meat has been debated for decades, while the EU diligently approves the gas killing of hundreds of millions of male chicks for “economic reasons” every year. Cows are artificially impregnated so that they can continuously produce milk by their udders being intentionally grown oversized making the animals unable to move naturally. Isn’t that considered cruelty to animals?

In view of the prevailing practices in the EU, I cannot comprehend why animal welfare is the reason for the ban on religious slaughter without stunning, when it was the way it had been done for centuries. Stunning was only introduced in the 1950s. Austrian veterinarians with decades of experience in monitoring non stun halal and kosher slaughtering have been assessing this slaughtering method – provided it is carried out by a professional slaughtering team – finding it neither better nor worse than the conventional slaughtering methods with stunning. An objective and fair discourse on slaughter methods with the involvement of relevant experts from research and practice would have been useful. Let the facts speak for themselves and improve practices instead of denying the religious communities animal welfare.

In my opinion, the judgment of the European Court of Justice will not have any negative effects on the export of meat products marketed by German industry – as halal – in the short or medium term, since stunning is required and applied by law already over decades. And slaughtering without stunning has only been approved in rare exceptional cases. This was certainly thoroughly analyzed and calculated in advance of the above judgment.

In the long term, this strategy could fail, as the market could shift due to the need for authentic non stun halal meat and regulatory changes in the importing muslim countries who might request this. The development of Halal standards is also giving rise to completely new benchmarks, new branches of industry and innovative solutions.