Going for the Kill report | Viva!

Going for the Kill report

Viva! Report on Religious Slaughter

by Juliet Gellatley BSc (Zoology),
Director of Viva!

Introduction

In 1996, Viva! launched its campaign against the religious killing of conscious animals. Under UK law, all farmed animals have to be stunned to render them unconscious before their throats are cut. However, a special legal exemption means that animals slaughtered, “by a religious method” - i.e. for halal or kosher meat - are exempt from this law and can have their throats cut whilst fully conscious. The terror and pain which these animals experience is immense. They are held in metal crushes or forced onto their backs before having their necks forcibly extended and their throats slashed. Death can take minutes.

As a vegetarian and vegan campaigning organisation, Viva! is opposed to killing animals for food. We have investigated all methods of slaughter - both religious and ‘mainstream’ and have found the whole business to be barbaric and cruel. Methods used to ‘stun’ animals before their throats are cut are frequently inadequate and each year, tens of millions regain consciousness as they bleed to death. Our campaigns expose the hypocrisy of those who claim that any kind of slaughtering is ‘humane’.

Since we launched Going for the Kill, we have seen some, limited progress. It is now illegal to slaughter animals outside of licensed slaughterhouses without pre-stunning - outlawing religious ‘home slaughter’ - which enabled animals to be killed in people’s back yards without any supervision.

Although no definitive figures exist, it appears that the vast majority of animals killed for halal meat (around 90%) are now stunned before their throats are cut (48). Very many Muslim authorities and individual Muslims accept the practice as entirely consistent with Islamic doctrine but there is no complete agreement on this question within the Muslim community. However, figures suggest that 8-10 million animals are still killed without pre-stunning each year for halal meat, and approximately 2 million animals killed for kosher meat are almost never pre-stunned (48).

This issue gained public exposure again in June 2003 when the Farm Animal Welfare Council (FAWC) published a report on red meat slaughter (58). FAWC is a prestigious, government-appointed body and their report was unequivocal that religious slaughter causes “very significant pain and distress”. It bluntly described slaughter without pre-stunning as “unacceptable” and recommended that the exemption from stunning for religious slaughter should be repealed (see p30-32). At the time of going to press (September 2003), however, the Government has made no official response to their own advisors’ call.

Going for the Kill exposes the reality of religious slaughter and reveals the extent to which conscious animals suffer when they die. It also examines Islamic and Jewish teachings and states that the real message of both religions is compassion to animals and to be vegetarian.