Halal: what is halal meat and is it inhumane?

Halal chickens hang for sale on a butchers stall

Millions in the UK may be eating unlabelled halal meat. Here are the facts about religious slaughter practices

LAST UPDATED AT 11:59 ON Thu 8 May 2014

REPORTS that millions of people in the UK are eating halal food “without knowing it” have reignited the debate on the ethics of religiously slaughtered meat.

Features in The Sun and the Daily Mail, allege that restaurants and shops across the UK, including Pizza Express, Tesco, KFC and Subway, have been selling halal meat to customers “without telling them”.

So how common is halal meat in the UK? And is it less humanely produced than other meat? We examine some of the most common questions around the issue of religious slaughter and how the government has reacted to the recent furore.

What is halal meat?
Halal is the Arabic word for “lawful” or “permitted”. Though it is used more broadly in the context of Islamic law, it is now more frequently associated with how meat is produced. The opposite word – haram – means “forbidden”.

How is halal meat produced?
Traditional halal meat is killed by hand and must be blessed by the butcher. The Muslim method of slaughter, known as zabiha, involves an animal having its throat, windpipe and the blood vessels around its neck slit with a surgically sharp instrument. The blood is then allowed to drain from the body. The area of religious law that details the method of slaughter also contains information on how the animal must be treated during its life.

Are the animals conscious when they are killed?
According to The Independent, between 84 and 90 per cent of animals killed for halal meat in the UK are stunned electrically before they have their throat slit. The method, known as “pre-stunned slaughter”, aims to minimise pain felt by the animal before it dies. Some Muslims think that the practice is contrary to the specifications of zabiha and prefer to eat halal meat that has not been pre-stunned.

Do the animals feel pain?
The question of whether religious slaughter is more or less humane than other forms of slaughter is a matter of debate.

Shuja Shafi and Jonathan Arkush, writing in The Guardian, say that religious slaughter is as humane as the alternatives. They argue that traditional British methods of stunning, using a captive bolt, gassing or electrocution, only manage to paralyse the animal so it cannot move, but “it is impossible to know whether the animal is feeling pain or not”.

In both Muslim and Jewish religious slaughter, the act of slitting the throat “stuns the animal”, they say, and “there is no delay between stun and subsequent death”.

The British Veterinary Association (BVA) and the RSPCA disagree with this view. The BVA says that “all animals should be effectively stunned before slaughter to improve the welfare of these animals” and the RSPCA says that killing animals without stunning them causes “unnecessary suffering”.

Should pre-stunned and non pre-stunned meat be labelled differently?
Currently it is not clear from labelling whether halal meat has come from pre-stunned slaughter or from slaughter without pre-stunning. Campaigners argue that there should be stricter rules about meat labelling so consumers know what they are buying. The industry body, Eblex, has responded by seeking views on an assurance scheme that would introduce “a level of transparency that it has been suggested is currently missing”, The Independent reports. 

How has the government responded?
Last year the British government said that it would not press for changes to make the pre-stunning of animals a legal requirement, despite pressure from the RSPCA. But the government said that it wants consumers to have all the “information about the food they are buying to make their own choice”. Consequently, it will consider the results of a European Union study into the feasibility of introducing labelling on meat that specifies how the animal was killed. Legislation on meat labelling could then follow. · 

Disqus - noscript

Halal and kosher meat contain less uric acid and toxins then ordinary meat, as the animals blood is drained making it healthier to consume, easier for the Human body to digest and break down for to use as energy. Interestingly it actually is better to the taste as well.

Not interested in what halal is or not. Like some communities feel it is haram to eat non-halal meeting there are others whose religions specifies that you cannot eat halal. why should non-halal eating communities suffer at the expense of those who raise their voice more.
Our schools children are being forced to eat halal or go hungry, Now schains like sub-way removed non-halal meat and once again insisting that everyone be fed halal.
can someone explain why those whose religion stipulates you cannot eat halal are being forced to go against their religion whilst others demands are being met by the government and the likes!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

“there is no delay between stun and subsequent death”.

The animals do not die instantly, so if the above is true, there is a delay *before* they are stunned.

If people will not eat pre-stunned animals they must become vegetarian, if they wish to live in the UK, where we should ALL obey the law. Why should I have to obey the law but an interloping group do not?

(And what does subsequent mean?)

My husband was a meat inspector in a halal slaughterhouse and was sickened by the way lambs were slaughtered - in sight of other animals, frequently four or five standing in line together as each had its throat cut and often taking several panic stricken minutes to bleed to death. After years of making sure animal welfare regulations were adhered to in non-halal abattoirs, he couldn't see this type of treatment with an easy conscience and changed his job. There are now very few non halal slaughterhouses in this country.

Well i hope they were reported then because according to my research that is not how the slaughter should be performed. They should not witness any of the blood from the previous animal so therefore the meat was essentially not halal.

There are more aspects to halal slaughter than animal welfare, which is important in itself. Why should non Muslims or non Jews be compelled to participate in the cultural practices of religions not their own? Also, halal slaughter is a multi billion dollar business, globally. As Muslims are expected to pay Zakat about 2.5% of income to 'charity' there is a distinct possibility that much of this money goes to fund extremist or terrorist groups, mosque and Islamic learning centre buildings in the West.

Sikhs are specifically forbidden by their religion to eat ritually slaughtered meet, yet no consideration is given to them. In fact, no consideration is given to any non Muslim in this country's rush to implement Sharia law.

Not so long ago Muslim schoolchildren were mistakenly given pork in a school. There was such a public outcry the dinner lady lost her job. Why are Muslim sensitivities given far more prominence than those of non Muslims? Is it because there are Muslims who will react violently when they can't get their own way or when they are refused concessions to their never ending demands?

All slaughterhouses are disgusting in my opinion, as is the way most farm animals are kept. This is why I became a vegetarian.

I would never knowingly eat halal meat and am disgusted that supermarkets are deceiving their customers about this matter,if people's religious beliefs are so important to them let them go to where their beliefs are accepted,halal is disgusting and barbaric.

Which religion states that you "cannot eat halal meat"?

wasp you talk nonsense, whats slaughtering meat anything to do with zakat. Before you talk about religion do your research. we only give 2.5 percent zakat every year on wealth that is sitting around and not in use i.e savings in account, gold that we don't use, land or property that is not in use. we believe if we are rich enough to have wealth sitting around, than we are rich enough to donate, thats how it works. its is absolutely not based on income, we are taxed enough in uk, No thanks i don't want to add more tax to my earnings. oh by the way i do donate lot more than 2.5 percent but thats optional. lol 2.5 percent you think that building our mosques. when request for building a mosque comes through our local area we try to give between £20k to 60K per family.

Have you read the article???

The islamic method of slaughtering is the most humane method because firstly it is necessary to use an extremely sharp knife, secondly the throat is slit with the immediate severing of the jugular vein therefore the connection to the brain and pain receptors are almost immediately broken. Suffering is minimised. The methods that are used for non halal are definetely more inhumane like captive bolt stunning-a blunt instrument being pounded into the head. Halal meat ensures all the blood is drained which has health benefits too numerous to go into now. All in all this hysteria is definetely been blown out of proportion though I agree clear labels should be used because everyone should be given the right and choice.

Dear Halalists,

Are you people for real.?

Do you actually beleive the animal
you are killing cares one way or the
other that you blessed it.?

Does that mean the lamb becomes a marter.?

Does the lamb get to go to heaven and have
a harem of virgins.?

Unknown Soldier

Sikhs are not suppose to eat meat in general, none of your guru's did and there's specific verses in the Guru granth sahib frowning upon eating meat. But you like the taste of meat don't you? Right. Animals are not treated humanely in slaughter houses, another reason meat is not permissible for sikhs because it continues the cycle of suffering for animals which is against sikhism. Sikhs are twisting the teachings of their religion because they began to like the taste of meat lol

People are to afraid of muslims because they are savage animals who want nothing but suffering on people and animals.

Of course you should love the taste of brutally tortured animals as any good muslim would.

Why don't you go back to where you came form then? You are in Europe remember.

Well said unknown soldier,

This damn halal meat and muslims, imposing their beliefs in rest of us "non believers" take this crap!.

Muslims have not imposed anything on you.

These multi-national companies have chosen to stock halal meat on the basis of simple economics. If it is cheaper for them to supply halal meat overall, then that is what they will supply. At the end of the day its simple maths, their decisions are based on what will make them more money, rather than to cater to a small percentage of the British population.

As a muslim, I don't really care if Subway or Pizza Express serve halal meat, I could choose the vegetarian option or choose to eat somewhere else else. What I would like to see is clear labelling which allows clear distinction of halal and non-halal meat. Thus meaning that I can choose to eat halal and you can choose to eat non-halal. That way everyone's happy!

Wasp, before making these accusations, I suggest you refer to reliable sources when making these claims rather than relying on the spiel printed in the tabloid newspapers.

I would like to point out that yes, Muslims do pay zakat, however, there are many strict conditions as to the way in which money is distributed. One of those is that zakat money can NOT be used to fund mosques, or any form of islamic learning centre buildings. For a person to receive zakat money, they have to fulfill certain conditions, which ensure that the money is going to the most needy and destitute.

Also, with regards to your claims about Sikhs, may I ask how many Sikhs you know personally? I live in a multi-cultural city where I am fortunate to have friends from a wide array or religious and cultural backgrounds, including Sikhs. I can confirm from my own personal experience that many devout Sikhs are happy to tuck in to a halal Nandos chicken.

And finally, I would like to adress your absurd claims regarding Sharia law. Just because you see a few nutters on TV waving banners about Sharia law doesn't mean that muslims want to takeover the country. The media love to give a platform to the radical minority. Maybe if you took the time out to meet and got to know a few normal 'non-nutter' Muslims you would realise that we are not so different and that the few idiots do not represent the British Muslim population at all.

OpenYourEyes. I agree with everything you say apart from the Sikh law. It is in fact against Sikhism to eat halal meat or marry Muslims. I have studied in depth all major religions of the world - after the studying I became Muslim. If Sikhs choose to eat halal meat then that is fine but it is actually against their religion. Salam :)

Halal food and Zakat are two different things entirely!
Zakat is 2.5% of disposable income of an individual - not all the money earned.l Zakat money is used to feed the poor and put clothes and shoes on them - NEVER for terrorism. Only a minority of Muslims support terrorism - we should not all be tarred with the same brush! Jimmy Savile was a Christian - does that make all Christian men horrible child molester? - NO!
I do agree with you that Sikhs are not allowed to eat halal meat - that is a fact. There are plenty of places that cater to them and all other non-Muslims. The world has a population of around 25% Muslims - That is a quarter - so why should we not be catered for too???I do not think anyone is trying to implement Sharia Law. It is only applicable in Muslim Countries!! Not all Subway or Nando's are halal - only a few- the reason they do this is to make more money because they are in areas with high Muslim population and want to maximise their profit. Personally I don't eat in them so am not bothered if they are halal or not.
It is strictly against Muslim religion to eat pork. If this was a genuine mistake then the poor dinner lady should not have lost her job - that is bad. If it was my kid I would have been upset but I know for a fact that neither I or any Muslim I know would have reacted violently. These views are very anti-Islamic. Nothing to do with halal meat at all.

I agree with you that if the animals are being killed in front of each other this is bad and is a total contradiction to Halal rules. . The animals throat should be cut with a clean sharp knife to ensure a fast and painless death - again if this is not how it's done then it is not halal. The animal should not see the knife and no other animal should be witness to the slaughter. I also have concerns on how animals are raised before slaughter. I think over consumption of meat is affecting the way all animals are raised and slaughtered - it is not good at all. I have actually witnessed halal slaughter in another country - it did shock me as I am an animal lover but I was very impressed at how calm the animal was and how quick it passed away. My concerns over animal welfare have drove me to stop eating meat altogether. I am a Muslim and do agree with halal slaughter if it is done 100% correct but I fear it is not and that is where the problems arise.

Totally untrue and an absolute insult to me and all other peace loving Muslims. There are a lot of us you know! I love all people regardless of colour or religion. I am a Muslim but come from a Christian background! I am an animal lover - give lots of money to animal welfare charities and no longer eat meat because of animal welfare concerns. The statement you have made is know as ANTI ISLAMIC and is very unfair

Islamophobic person who has no clue what they are talking about!! :(

Another Islamophobic statement. Many Muslims are born in this country - 3rd or 4th generation! There are people from all over the world living all over the world. I am Scottish - I have family living in Canada USA and Australia. They have had kids and their kids had kids etc etc - their families originate from Scotland but are not Scottish - they are Canadian, American or Australian now. This is just a totally uneducated closed mind at stupid thing to say - go join BNP or Britain First - I think this would suit you very well!!!

Me too :)

Agreed :)

You are not indigenous to europe. You are as much an invader as europeans were in the america's to the natives.

You are a disgusting human being. Go back to your cuck porn you self hating twat.

I am not indigenous???? I am bloody Scottish with Scottish Parents, grand parents, great grandparents etc...etc.... I have a tartan and a clan. I am SCOTTISH AND PROUD. You called me a disgusting human being and you do not even know me!!! From your comments on here I think you need to look at yourself long and hard in a mirror an realise you are talking about yourself!!!

I am not a twat and not self hating. I feel really sad for you. You call me a disgusting human being. I have not been horrible to you but you have to me and you don't even know me. It must be awful for you to have all that hatred inside your heart eating away at you and stressing you out on a daily basis. It is far easier to love than it is to hate. I don't know what cuck porn is but if you do then you must watch/participate in it! Sad EuropaX Sad!!!!!!!

You hate your people, you hate your ancestry, you hate your civilized way of life and gravitate to another peoples culture and join in on their desert subhuman savagery. You are self hating.

You mean those thousands of videos that come out daily of muslims chopping other peoples heads off and praising their god are fake? You mean all the science that says halal slaughter is incredibly inhumane is fabricated?

Muslims are the most savage people on the planet. Everyone should be afraid of them.

You hate yourself and you hate your people, that is why you became a muslim and want more people in our country that hate our civilized way of life and plague our country with their fascist Islamic ideology, crime and welfare entitlement.

I do not hate myself - I love me!!!! :)
I love my ancestry and my civilised way of life. I am proud to be Scottish and am proud that I have a tartan and a clan. I love all my family who are Christian. I have many friend from all walks of life, colours & religion. I am a peace loving person. I love life, I love the world, I love animals, I love caring for the environment. I am full of love!!! I am not following another culture. I have become a Muslim - it is not a culture it is a religion. You are closed minded, uneducated and full of hate. You hate things you know nothing about and you hate people you know nothing about. Ignorant, bigoted, stupid, sad, racist, Islamophobic ---- just a few words that come to mind.....As I said before I feel sad for you with all that hatred inside you eating away at your heart & soul!!!

You are just a Muslim hater that's it. Any chance you get you hate hate hate!!! This thread was about halal meat but you have taken it way too far. There are bad "Muslims" in the world. There are also bad Non-Muslims but you are Islamophobic and probably racist and have tarred all Muslims with the same brush. Shame on you hateful horrible person

Why would you become a muslim? Because you want to be different? Just the average white middle class hipster who wants attention?

If you eat halal meat you do not love animals.

what about an animal feeling fear or terror? Oh we dont care about that

Correct dear soldier ! first of all, why so much debate ? just why can't people turn vegetarian ? Safe for all, healthy for all, no cruelty whatsoever to any animal !

Hi ! why so much debate ? why can't people just turn vegetarian and leave eating meat ? it is healthy for all, safe for all and no animals will be harmed, either halal or not !

I'm not afraid of Muslims. Love em'

For further concise, balanced comment and analysis on the week's news, try The Week magazine. Subscribe today and get 6 issues completely free.