Sunday, October 30, 2011

The most humane slaughter

The great festival of Eid-ul Adha is celebrated by the Muslims all over the world on the tenth of Dhul-Hijja every year through sacrifices and prayers in memory of the glorious sacrifice of the prophets Ibrahim Khalilullah and Ismail Zabihullah (peace be upon them).

Millions of cattle are slaughtered on this auspicious day with a view to receiving the Divine Mercy through benevolence, Samaritanism, patience and constancy. This noble effort is, however, condemned by many ignorant non-Muslims, shrouded by total ignorance about the significance and sublime essence of Qurbani, as an act of wanton cruelty. What is more, the Islamic practice of slaughter or sacrifice by slitting the throat with a sharp knife has come under attack by some animal rights activists as being an inhuman form of cruelty to animals.

It is claimed that the slaughtering of an animal with a knife is the most painful and tortuous method of killing. Nothing can be farther from the truth. It has been established beyond any shadow of doubt, through impartial scientific experiments conducted in non-Muslim countries, that the Islamic method of slaughtering with a knife is the least painful and thus the most humane method of killing an animal.

An animal is being stunned in a slaughterhouse in Brazil. In most of the Western countries, it is required by law to stun the animals with a shot in the head before the slaughter. It is done with a view to rendering the animal unconscious and thereby preventing it from reviving before it is killed so as not to slow down the movement of the processing line. It is also used from a humanitarian point of view. It is presumed that this stunning prevents the animal from feeling pain before it dies. But research conducted in a non-Muslim country like Germany has come out with very surprising findings which nail to the counter the allegations against the Islamic method of slaughtering with a knife.

The intensive research conducted at the School of Veterinary Medicine, Hanover University in Germany was headed by Professor Wilhelm Schulze. He was assisted by Dr. Hazim. The study was named: "Attempts to objectify pain and consciousness in conventional (captive bolt pistol stunning) and ritual (Islamic method of cutting with knife) methods of slaughtering sheep and calves."

The results were most unexpected to the non-Muslim Westerners. The claim that the CBPS (Capital Bolt Pistol Stunning) method was least painful and most humane dashed to the ground. The findings testified to the fact that the slaughter of an animal with a sharp knife is the least painful and most humane of all methods of killing.

In the study several electrodes were surgically implanted at various points of the skulls of all animals under experiment, touching the surface of the brain. The animals were allowed to recover for several weeks.

Some animals were then slaughtered, according to the Islamic method, by making a swift, deep incision with a sharp knife on the neck cutting the jugular vein and the carotid arteries as well as the trachea and esophagus. Other animals were stunned with the aid of a 'Captive Bolt Pistol' (CBP).

During the experiment an electroencephalograph (EEG) and an electrocardiogram (ECG) recorded the condition of the brains and the hearts of all the animals during the course of slaughter and stunning.

The results were as follows:

Slaughtering with a knife (The Islamic Method)

1. The first 3 seconds from the time of the slaughter (in the Islamic Method) as recorded on the EEG did not show any change from the graph before slaughter, thus indicating that the animal did not feel any recognisable pain during or after the incision.

2. During the following 3 second, the EEG recorded a condition of deep sleep-unconsciousness. This is due to the large quantity of blood gushing out of the body. The sudden and profuse bleeding from the incision on the neck causes a shock resulting in a state of unconsciousness due to severe shortage of blood supply to the vital centers located in the brain.

3. After the above-mentioned 6 seconds, the EEG recorded zero level, showing no feeling of pain at all.

4. As the brain message (EEG) dropped to zero level, the heart was still pounding and the body convulsing vigorously (a reflex action of the spinal cord) driving out a maximum amount of blood from the body, thus resulting in hygienic meat for the consumers.

Captive Bolt Pistol (CBP) Stunning Method

1. The animals were apparently unconscious soon after stunning.

2. But EEG showed severe pain immediately after stunning.

3. The hearts of animals stunned by CBP stopped beating earlier as compared to those of the animals slaughtered according to the Islamic method, resulting in the retention of more blood in the meat. This in turn is unhygienic for the consumer.

CBP Method and mad cow disease (MCD)

The Western method of stunning animals with a shot in the head is not only severely painful, as shown by the above experiment, but it is also alarmingly unhygienic. There is rising concern (based on the findings of some researches) that the method may be a factor in the spread of Mad Cow disease (MCD) from cattle to human beings.

Two independent researches carried out recently at the Texas A & M University and by Canada's Food Inspection Agency discovered that a method called Pneumatic Stunning (in which a metal bolt is fired into the cow's brain and followed by a pulverising burst of 150 pounds of air pressure) delivered a force so explosive that it scattered brain tissue throughout the animal's body. The findings are really disturbing since brain tissue and spinal cord are the most infectious parts of an animal with Mad Cow Disease which causes Swiss cheese like holes in the brain of the infected animal. It is all the more alarming because 30 to 40 per cent of the American cattle are stunned by pneumatic guns before the slaughter.

As for the most modern method of electric stunning being practiced in many developed countries, the Meat Inspection Branch of the United States Department of Agriculture came to the following conclusion in 1953: "The use of electric stunning methods by plants which operate under federal meat inspection has not been permitted as a result of experiments which were conducted several years ago at the University of Chicago. These experiments indicated that electric stunning in hogs resulted in certain changes in the tissues which could not be differentiated by gross examination from similar changes produced by disease."

In 1955 the Danish Ministry of Justice issued a circular, which said, "Stunning with electricity causes extravasations in meat, sanguinary intestines and fracture in the spinal column, pelvis and the shoulder blades through shock. The blood in the meat makes it more susceptible to putrefaction and has a detrimental effect upon its taste. The properties of the meat which would co-operate with the salt in extracting the blood traces are interfered within the animal undergoing shock convulsions prior to slaughter."

In 1954 British regulations were amended and electric stunning was prohibited, "the reason being that stunning seriously affected the quality of British bacon."

It was also observed: "Electric stunning hastens the onset of putrefaction in meat. The explanation of the phenomenon lies in the high lactic acid level following electric shocks prior to bleeding. High lactic acid alters the bacterial resistance of meat."

If the head of the animal is severed by one sharp blow through guillotining or Bali at the sacrificial post, there will be sudden contraction of voluntary muscles, which will expel important nutrient fluids and, as in electric shock, some lactic acid will also form. What is more, since the heart will stop suddenly, there will not be sufficient bleeding which is needed for better and healthier meat.

It is evident from the above-mentioned studies that the Islamic slaughter of animals is a blessing to both the animal and the person who consumes it. It may, however, be mentioned in this connection that the Islamic method insists on several measures to make the slaughter lawful.

This is done to ensure maximum benefit to both the animal and the consumer.

The holy Prophet Muhammad's (peace be upon him) emphatic declaration in this regard should be mentioned first. The holy Prophet (pbuh) said: "Allah calls for mercy in everything, so be merciful when you kill and when you slaughter: sharpen your blade to relieve its pain."

According to a tradition transmitted by Muslim, the Apostle of Allah (pbuh) ordered a horned ram with black legs, a black belly and black round the eyes, and it was brought to him to be sacrificed. He told Bibi Ayesha Siddiqua (RA) to get the knife, and then told her to sharpen it with a stone. When she had done so he took it, then taking the ram he placed it on the ground and cut its throat.

The Islamic method indeed demands that the knife to be used for slaughtering animals must be sharp and used swiftly. The swift cut of vessels of the neck disconnects the flow of blood to the nerves in the brain responsible for pain. Thus the slaughtered animal feels no pain.

It may be mentioned in this connection that the movements and withering of the different limbs of the animal after the incision is made are not due to pain, but due to the contraction and relaxation of the muscles deficient in blood. The convulsions are due to the contraction of the muscles in response to the lack of oxygen in the brain cells.

The muscles, by these contractions, squeeze out blood from the blood vessels in the tissues to pour it into the central circulation system to be sent to the brain, but this is lost on the way (due to cutting of big vessels in the neck) and the brain cells consequently keep on sending messages to the muscles to wring out blood, until the animal dies.

Convulsions thus occur when the animal becomes unconscious. And because the slaughtered animal becomes unconscious for massive hemorrhage, it does not feel pain while bleeding.

The holy Prophet's (pbuh) kindness to the animals extended to such an extent that he also instructed the Muslims neither to sharpen the blade of the knife in front of the animals nor to slaughter an animal in front of others of its own kind. It is unfortunate that very few Muslims today abide by this noble and unparalleled instruction of the last and greatest Prophet.

While offering Qurbani on Eid-ul-Azha most of the Muslims unfortunately, ignore the above-mentioned humane instruction of the Apostle of God (phub) and recklessly slaughter camels and cows and lambs right in front of other animals. We not only fight shy of the holy Prophet's unique instruction but also very easily forget that the animals feel and suffer in the same way as the humans do.

Lastly, the Islamic method also insists that the cut should involve the windpipe (trachea), gullet (esophagus), and the two jugular veins without cutting the spinal cord. This method results in rapid gush of blood draining most of it from the animal's body. If the spinal cord is cut, the nerve fibres to the heart might be damaged leading to cardiac arrest, thus resulting in stagnation of blood in the blood vessels. The blood must be drained completely before the head is removed from the body. As most of the blood, which acts as medium of microorganisms, is removed the meat becomes purified and also remains fresh for a longer period as compared to the meat obtained through other methods of slaughtering like gullotining or decapitation, CBPS and electric stunning.

The Islamic method of slaughter is, therefore, not only the most humane and least painful but also the most hygienic of all the methods of killing animals.

By: Syed Ashraf Ali

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