Leading Islamic scholars in the UK have unanimously rejected the automated slaughter of halal poultry, insisting each bird must be killed with a hand held knife.
Although all 35 scholars attending a recent debate on religious slaughter rejected the mechanisation of the procedure under halal law, the issue remains controversial, with some halal organisations reported to take a more pragmatic view and apparently agreeing to automated slaughter under certain conditions.
Speaking at the recent BMPA conference, the UK’s agriculture minister Jim Paice said that the implementation of an EU regulation on the protection of animals at the time of killing in January 2013 provided an opportunity to consider how to improve the welfare of animals slaughtered in accordance with religious rites, an issue which had risen up the political agenda in recent years.
“The position of the government is absolutely clear. We would prefer to see all animals stunned before slaughter but we do respect the right for people to eat meat which is prepared in a way that reflects their religious beliefs and we will continue to allow religious slaughter, ” he told delegates.
According to the guidelines slaughtermen must use a sharp knife to sever the jugular veins and carotid arteries as well as the oesophagus and trachea of animals, but not the spinal cord as this restricts convulsion, which in turn restricts the pumping out of blood.
A survey last year showed that of 4.7 million birds slaughtered in one week using so-called halal procedures only 1.2 million used the correct manual method.
The government is facing renewed pressure to outlaw the slaughter of animals that have not been made unconscious. Current rules order that stock must be stunned before slaughter – by electrocution, gassing, or shooting retractable rods into their brains. But there are exemptions for animals to be killed without stunning, according to Muslim and Jewish traditions.