Opinion: Politics of religious animal slaughter

RUSHDIAs part of the Islamic/halal economic undertaking, Malaysia or Dubai could be an ideal platform, via an international conference/summit, to take a deep dive into the charged issue of animal slaughter.

There is much confusion among the Muslims (too many certification bodies) and misunderstanding among non-Muslims (similar to Islamic finance), and it’s causing divisions and wild accusations of halal funding extremism or halal being “hell for all” (consumers).

Invoking the Creator’s name in appreciation of the bounty before consuming food is common among all believers, and the only difference may be the timing.

For example, in the halal slaughter, the Creator’s name is invoked — Bismillahi Allahuakbar (slaughtering with the name of Allah who is greatest of all) — way before the food is served at the dinner table.

However, in Christianity, Grace is recited at dinner tables, be it at Thanksgiving, Christmas or family dinners: “Bless O Lord this food {these gifts} to our use and us to thy loving service; and keep us ever mindful of the needs of others. Amen.”

Thus, it’s perplexing when those who recite Grace cannot understand invocation of the Almighty’s name (by Muslims) for the halal slaughter.

As the Gulf Cooperation Council is a net importer of foods, meat, chicken, lamb, etc, from places like the US, Brazil, Australia, New Zealand, Thailand, etc, logic dictates examining their up-stream living conditions.

There are several implications:

• Is the livestock part of infamous factory farming or are they grass-fed/free-range, nonhormone, non-antibiotic raised animals? If born and raised in inhumane conditions and fed other animal parts, then a religious slaughter does not make them halal!
(The leakage, at midstream processing or logistics (crosscontamination), can make halal into haram (prohibited). The leakage is also important for non-Muslims as contamination in the supply chain to the dinner table presents health risks.)

• The free-range/grass-fed livestock represent an organic upbringing, and the halal industry needs to focus on this part of the story as it strongly connects to others.

• The halal food supply chain (80%-90%) is not controlled/ owned by Muslims, hence sale proceeds go to multinational food companies. Furthermore, they may not be Shariah- compliant due to excessive debt ratios or having more than a “minor” revenue percentage from impermissible sources (like pork)!

Thus, where is the financing of extremism? The religious slaughter, allegedly inhumane treatment (pain) of the animal due to non-stunning, has been the spark/roaring fire of controversy in Poland, Denmark, etc, and associations such as the British Veterinary Association.

This presents an ideal opportunity to discuss issues at an event where:

• Scientific evidence on anxiety/stress (hormones) and pain levels of animals (1) during the “walk/restraining/ handling” before the slaughter and (2) at the point of non-stun slaughter and stun-slaughter is presented.

(I would even submit that a camera feed of live demonstration of halal (non-stun) slaughter and stun slaughter be viewed with electrodes placed on the animal. The halal meat can then be served at the gala dinner or donated to charity. Yes, it will be the first time many (Muslims) will see a slaughter, which may make them uncomfortable.)

• Studies are presented on mis-stunning and its painful impact on the animal. Are there viable alternatives like magnetic stunning?

• Scientific evidence on healthiness of halal slaughter versus non-halal is presented. If the blood is not completely drained, there are health issues, hence, the saying “cleanliness is next to Godliness” has applications.

Stunning has become a confusing issue amongst Muslims. A suggested way forward may be labelling: was the animal (1) stunned or not, (2) slaughtered by machine or hand, and (3) slaughtered invoking the Creator’s name by machine recording or live human voice? Obviously, there will be inefficiencies with hand slaughter (especially with chickens) which may result in a premium price for the halal product.

(Much of the halal slaughter is done via stunning, as long as its reversible.)

Food, not finance, is the only area where Jews (Kosher) and Muslims (Halal) are aligned as one in Poland, Denmark, US, UK, etc. For example, during the banning of religious slaughter in Poland and Denmark, a unified front was presented to the government authorities. Hence, interfaith aligned interest.

We are on the cusp of convergence on livestock treatment, prayer, slaughter, and traceability. Where is the dividing difference?


Rushdi Siddiqui, Global Leader, Head of Islamic Economy, Senior Partner, DinarStandard, US-based Growth Strategy Research & Advisory