Friday, 19 November 2010

Should ritual slaughter be banned?

Dear reader, our blog has moved to a new address.

Do come on over (and change your bookmarks accordingly):

In his latest Independent column, Johann Hari argues that the rise in the use of ritually slaughtered meat in Britain should not be tolerated, and that it's time the practice was banned on animal welfare grounds. He says standing up to an unnecessary, cruel practice such as ritual slaughter must not be seen as an attack on the rights of religious minorities:
"It is true that, at the moment, there is a frightening rise in real bigotry against Muslims and, to a lesser but still significant extent, Jews. Some people who object to the rise of halal meat try to fit it into a preposterous narrative where Britain is somehow being "taken over" by the 4 per cent of its population who are Muslim, presumably via the Protocols of the Elders of Mecca. I have written many articles against this resurgent bigotry, and I can see why some people would be shy about anything that would look like piling on.

But the only consistent position is to oppose viciousness against these minorities, and to oppose viciousness by these minorities. The proponents of halal and kosher meat are choosing to inflict terrible and unnecessary pain on living creatures every day. It would be condescending to treat them as victim-children who are exempt from moral debate – and it would be a betrayal of the real victims here: the sentient creatures having their throats cut."
 This ties in with a piece we published in our September issue, in which retired physiologist Harold Hillman suggested that, based on the evidence he saw while studying the effects of electrical torture on humans during his career, the stunning practices used in non-ritual slaughter may cause as much pain for the animal as ritual methods. The scientific argument presented by Hillman is open to question – and several people have questioned it – but behind that is an argument which I think is important, and is in keeping with Hari's. Hillman concludes that if humanists and secularists (and indeed anyone) is going to oppose ritual slaughter (which personally, I think we should), it must be on the basis of science and animal welfare, and not simply because halal and kosher methods have their origins in religion. We should only oppose, and seek to prohibit, religious practices when they come into conflict with other values which we deem more important.

Of course, there are lots of arguments surrounding this. Is animal welfare more important than religious freedom? Is it not slightly hypocritical to stand up to religious slaughter, yet stand by and allow many other forms of non-religious animal cruelty (battery farming comes to mind)?

What do you think? Do share your thoughts in the comments.
blog comments powered by Disqus