Dominic Kennedy Investigations Editor – Times
A prominent imam has reignited the debate about ritual slaughter by urging the government to ban halal killing unless animals have been stunned first.
The British Veterinary Association (BVA) yesterday praised Nizar Boga, a former adviser to the Prince’s Trust, for urging politicians to take the lead in encouraging all Muslims to eat meat from animals that are rendered uncon- scious before their throats are cut.
Many Muslims believe that they should not eat meat from an animal that has been stunned before slaughter. Mr Boga said, however, that stunning
was consistent with Islamic teachings and noted that most halal meat pro- duced in Britain came from animals that had been stunned.
The European Union requires all creatures to be stunned before slaughter but allows nations to make exemptions for religious reasons. Denmark banned non-stun slaughter this year, provoking outrage from Jews and Muslims who said their faiths required animals to be killed in a traditional manner.
Mr Boga’s submission to an animal welfare consultation by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) was disclosed under the Freedom of Information Act. He told The Times there was nothing in the Ko- ran about method of slaughter but some Muslims believed they should follow the traditions of the Prophet Muhammad, including the techniques by which animals were killed in his time.
“We are in a different era altogether,” Mr Boga said. “Like everything else, we have adapted. Why is it we look to what the Prophet has done in the year 500 or 600 AD when there was no ability at all to put an animal at ease?”
Mr Boga, a prison imam, is an official adviser to the EU’s Dialrel programme, which consults on religious slaughter. He is also chief executive of the Universal Halal Agency, which audits
consumable products to ensure that they comply with Sharia. He urged the government to remove the exemption permitting non-stun slaughter in the case of Muslims.
The vast majority of animals killed in Britain for halal consumption are alread stunned: 88 per cent of poultry, 84 per cent of cattle and 81 per cent of sheep and goats. This contrasts with the Jewish practice, shechita, where no animals are stunned before their throats are cut.
David Cameron has assured Jews that he will allow them to continue, telling the Knesset in March: “On my watch shechita is safe in the UK.”
Robin Hargreaves, president of the BVA, said: “The fact that around 88 per cent of halal slaughter in the UK is pre-stunned suggests that the pro-wel- fare views expressed by Mr Boga are among the broad spectrum of opinions held within the Muslim community.”
A petition launched by the BVA to ban non-stun slaughter has attracted 70,000 names. Dr Abdul Majid Katme, of the Islamic Medical Association, told the government consultation that it was “important to keep religious slaughter unstunned”. He said yester- day that the Muslim consensus was that stunning was forbidden. “We follow the Prophet,” he said. “It is a religious right.”