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Last Updated: Tuesday, 10 June, 2003, 10:33 GMT 11:33 UK
Q&A: Animal slaughter
The method of slaughtering animals carried out by Jewish and Muslim communities - Kosher and Halal - has come under fire from the Farm Welfare Advisory Council, an independent group.

It claims the practice causes suffering to the animals, although Muslim and Jewish groups say the slaughter process is painless.

BBC News Online explains the issues.

What do Halal and Kosher mean?

Halal is the description of food and drink allowed for Muslims under Islamic dietary laws.

The laws are defined in the Koran and in the sayings of the prophet Muhammad. Classifying of Halal food can only be carried out by a Muslim expert in the laws.

The Koran dietary law states: "He has forbidden you what dies of itself [carrion], and blood, and the flesh of swine and that over which any name other than Allah has been invoked."

Kosher is the Jewish classification of food and drink as defined in the Five Books of Moses. The kosher way is stressed by rabbis as being essential to preserving Jewish life.

The separation of meat from milk is central to maintaining a kosher lifestyle.

With red meat, Jewish people are permitted to eat animals which have cloven hooves and chew the cud - such as goats, sheep, cattle and deer.

What are the Halal and Kosher methods of slaughter?

Halal and Kosher meat is prepared by slaughtering the animal with a quick cut to the throat with a sharp knife to allow the blood to drain from the animal.

Both religions believe this is the most painless method of slaughter, saying that the sudden loss of blood from the head means the animals feel virtually nothing.

In the Jewish process several veins and forbidden fats are also removed and all blood drained. As with the Koran, the consumption of blood is strictly forbidden in the Torah.

What is the Farm Animal Welfare Council?

It is an independent advisory body established by the government in 1979. It reviews the welfare of farm animals on agricultural land, at market, in transit and at the place of slaughter.

It advises the government of any changes that may be necessary and says the majority of its recommendations are implemented by legislation and welfare codes.

It made recommendations for changes to Halal and Kosher slaughter in the 1980s, but they were ignored.

Why is there opposition to the Halal and Kosher methods of slaughter?

Under UK law, animals must be stunned before slaughter. However, religious communities are exempt from this law.

The FAWC says under the religious methods, cattle can take up to two minutes to bleed to death - amounting to an abuse of the animals.

The group said a study of advancements in equipment available for stunning had concluded that the exemption should be lifted.

The council said its view had been based solely on animal welfare issues and had not been a moral or religious judgement.

Demand grows for Halal turkeys
24 Dec 01  |  England
Farmers urged to go halal
31 Jul 02  |  UK News

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