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Halal and Kosher Meat

What is Halal or Kosher Meat?

Halal and Kosher meat is ritually-slaughtered meat according to Islamic and Judaic religious principles, respectively. There are many similarities between Halal and Kosher Meat. For meat to be lawful for Muslim or Jewish consumption:

  • The animal must be healthy and not diseased
  • The animal must be free from injury or defect
  • A prayer is said before the slaughter
  • It must be performed by a competent individual with a surgically sharp knife and not by machine
  • The slaughter involves a single quick incision to the neck, cleanly cutting the jugular vein
  • The blood must be fully drained from the carcass of the animal
  • There are requirements for cleanliness, sanitation, and purity

Many adherents to this practice contend that the advantage of this method is that it ensures rapid, complete draining of the blood which keeps the meat fresh and free from impurities. They also consider this method to be the least painful and humane method of slaughter for the animal, causing unconsciousness within a couple of seconds.

What is Islam’s viewpoint on Animal Welfare?

Under Islamic guidelines, as with Judaic, any undue pain for the animal must be avoided. It is forbidden to treat an animal cruelly during its lifetime or during the slaughter. If the animal is killed by a blow, strangling, electric shock or drowning in water, its meat is not considered permissible. Islamic practices dictate that the animal is not allowed to be put down in view of other animals neither is the knife to be openly shown to the animal to be slaughtered. This would cause the animals distress and is not best practice. Although the slaughter of animals is allowed for food consumption, it is strictly forbidden for sport or enjoyment. The Prophet (peace be upon him) often chastised people for the mistreatment of animal and spoke to them about the need for mercy and kindness.

Why the need for Islamic ritual slaughter?

Muslims submit to God’s teachings, knowing that God is All Knowing and All Wise and that His commandments have benefits for us all. Muslims acknowledge that there is only One True God who is the cause of all creation and He is the only One to be worshipped. This worship entails the acceptance and following of God’s laws which includes such practices. According to Islamic scholars, the method of slaughtering animals in the most correct and humane way must be a method prescribed by God for all times, given that He is All Knowing and All Wise. His commandments have benefits for the whole of humanity as well as for the animal kingdom because He is the Creator of all.

The problem of stunning

Judaism expressly forbids stunning. Conversely whilst not being considered ideal, stunning, as long as it does not kill the animal in question, is acceptable in Islam. Nevertheless, there are some negative aspects of stunning an animal before it is slaughtered for human consumption. These are as follows:

  • Research shows that some animals and poultry die prior to slaughter due to stunning
  • Stunning is inhumane to animals and causes unnecessary suffering and distress; there is a high frequency of animals being hit but not falling unconscious, causing further suffering to the animal
  • Stunning prevents the drainage of the entire blood from the meat, risking the build-up of bacteria and disease

When administered correctly, ritual slaughtering causes a sudden drop in blood pressure to the brain which renders the animal brain dead within seconds. Many researchers have found this method to be less painful than modern methods of slaughter but opinions are wide and varied. The method is considered to keep the meat fresh and free from impurities.

Does Halal or Kosher food have any relevance to Christians?

A number of Christian denominations around the world also practise the ritual slaughter of animals in keeping with this Semitic religious tradition. In fact Jesus himself was considered a Jew and part of the Jewish community during his time and would therefore have eaten Kosher meat. According to Islamic tradition, the practice of religious slaughter is considered to have been carried out by all the prophets of Islam including Jesus Christ, John, Moses, Joseph, Jacob, Lot, Abraham and other Israelite and Ishmaelite prophets (may God’s peace be upon them all). Many other Islamic practices are also similar to orthodox Christian and Jewish practices, with some still being carried out by many Jewish and Christian religious communities e.g. circumcision.

Why do Muslims use the name Allah for God?

Allah is one of the names for God in Islam and was used by Arab Christians in pre-Islamic times. There are many other names for God in Islam, such as The Merciful (Ar Rahman), The Beneficent (Ar Raheem), The Forgiving (Al Ghafoor), The Lord (Ar-Rabb) and others which describe and help us to understand God. It is known that Jesus spoke an ancient Aramaic dialect, which is a Semitic language like Hebrew. The name “Allāh” exists in both Aramaic and Hebrew. The corresponding Aramaic form is ʼĔlāhā (also written as Alaha) in Biblical Aramaic and ʼAlâhâ in Syriac, which quite simply means God. It is understood that Jesus would certainly have used this term since it was commonly used in his time and region.

Why is the name of God (Allah) pronounced during the Islamic slaughter?

The name of God (Allah) must be pronounced over the animal as part of the prescribed Islamic method for slaughter. This is a commandment to the Muslims by God in the Qur’an. There are many other reasons including the understanding that this provision has been provided to us by God, so we pronounce His name before the ritual to recognise His blessings and show thankfulness.

Who is Allah?

The God worshipped by the Muslims is the same God of the former prophets mentioned in the Old and New Testament such as Jesus, John, Moses, Joseph, Jacob, Abraham, Lot, David, Solomon, Jonah, Noah, Adam and others. However Muslims differ to the modern Jewish and Christian understanding of God and are more closely aligned to the historic understanding from these faiths. According to the Islamic faith, God is unseen, All Powerful, All Knowing and One who has no equal. The Christian understanding of the trinity is therefore rejected by Muslims because of their pure monotheistic understanding of God as One who does not share His divinity with others. Rather the position of Jesus Christ in Islam is not considered as that of sharing Lordship with God but of him being one of the greatest Messengers and Prophets sent by God.

Why should Muslims and Jews be concerned about the recent reports on this subject?

History has shown that we should be very wary of ostracising communities and their religious practices. In fact banning kosher meat was something carried out by Adolf Hitler in order to marginalise the Jewish community in Nazi Germany. Currently the unnecessary poor media coverage of Muslims is exacerbating the Islamophobic environment in the UK. Attacks on Muslims, and in particular Muslim women, are on the increase. Poor media reporting of the issues could set back community cohesion by many decades causing serious unrest and disharmony amongst large communities who contribute so well to the economy and to the country as a whole.

Further Commentary & Notes

Conditions for halal meat

Then eat of that over which the name of Allah has been mentioned, if you believe in His signs. [The Quran: Chapter 6 – Cattle, Livestock, verse 118] And do not eat of that over which the name of Allah has not been mentioned for truly that is impiety. [The Quran: Chapter 6 – Cattle, Livestock, verse 121] “Forbidden to you (for food) are: Al-Maitah (dead animals), blood, the flesh of swine, and that on which God’s Name has not been mentioned while slaughtering (that which has been slaughtered as a sacrifice for others than God, or has been slaughtered for idols) and that which has been killed by strangling, or by a violent blow, or by a headlong fall, or by the goring of horns — and that which has been (partly) eaten by a wild animal — unless you are able to slaughter it (before its death) – and that which is sacrificed (slaughtered) on An-Nusub (stone-altars)” [The Quran: Chapter 5 – The Table Spread, verse 3]

Islam’s view on Animal Welfare

The Quran and guidance from Prophet Muhammad (upon whom be peace) give many examples and directives about how people should treat animals. Here are examples of such reports which instruct Muslims about kind treatment to animals: Reward for mercy: The Prophet, may God bless him and grant him peace, said, “Whoever is merciful even when slaughtering a sparrow, God will be merciful to him on the Day of Judgment.” (Al-Adab al-Mufrad, Al Bukhari) Animals cannot speak up for themselves: Abu Dawud related from Sahl ibn Al-Handhaliyya that the Prophet, may God bless him and grant him peace, once passed by a camel that was so emaciated that its back had almost reached its stomach. He said, “Fear God in these beasts who cannot speak.” Mental cruelty also forbidden: It is related from Abdurrahman bin Abdullah that a group of disciples were once on a journey with the Prophet, may God bless him and grant him peace, and he left them for a while. During his absence, they saw a bird with its two young, and they took the young ones from the nest. The mother bird was circling above in the air, beating its wings in grief, when the Prophet came back. He said, “Who has hurt the feelings of this bird by taking its young? Return them to her.” (Muslim)

The above article is an extract from the iERA PRESS STATEMENT ON: The Halal and Kosher Meat Controversy – May 21 2014.

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