The Islamic Method of Slaughter

MAY 1985 ISLAMIC METHOD OF SLAUGHTER 31 From Our Archives: THE ISLAMIC METHOD OF SLAUGHTER By A.R. Dard The head of the felled animal or bird having been extended, the slaughterer takes hold of a portion of the skin of the neck between the thumb and forefinger. Then saying: Bismillah Allaho Akbar—in the name of Allah, Allah is Great—he slaughers the animal usually with a sharp and smooth knife. The large blood vessels of the neck, the carotid arteries’ and jugular veins which supply the brain with blood containing oxygen, are completely divided; and the cut severs all structures on the central side of the vertebral column. The central muscles being severed, the dorsal muscles at once pull back the head, leaving an unrestricted vent for the blood. Immediately, blood spurts from the severed carotid arteries in a jet. The blood contained in the body is rapidly pumped out by the heart, which continues to beat for a few minutes. The cut is continuous and uninterrupted and the knife is not press- ed down vertically but it is drawn across the neck horizontally. The cut is not a stab. It is neither low down nor high up, but in the centre of the neck. This is a description of the ordinary Muslim process of slaughter- ing animals for food. But it should be remembered that there is no blind rigidity in Islam because such rigidity really tends to defeat its own purpose. A universal and practical religion must have a measure of elasticity in its regulations to make it really serviceable in meeting the varying requirements of man. For instance, if a knife is not available, Islam allows in an emergency, the use of anything sharp- edged which would bleed the animal, but it allows no cruelty. In the same way no rigid method of ‘casting’ the animal is prescribed by Islam. If necessary the ‘casting’ may be dispensed with altogether. All that is required is that the method should be humane, convenient and effective. It should involve unnecessary hardship, suffering and pain neither to animal nor to man. Camels for example may be bled standing with their legs tied. Game is also permissible in Islam. A bird or an animal killed with a gun or an arrow is lawful, but not the one which is strangled, knocked down, gored or beaten to death with 32 THE REVIEW OF RELIGIONS MAY 1985 a stick or blows. It should also be remembered that the essential condition of mak- ing flesh lawful is that the bird or beast should be shot, slaughtered or killed by bleeding in the name of God. The formula, Bismillah, Allaho Akbar—In the name of Allah, Allah is Great—must be recited at the time of killing. Otherwise the flesh would be unclean and unlawful. The space at my disposal does not allow me to discuss here the necessity, significance and importance of this Islamic in- junction. All that I would like to remark here in passing is that it has a moral and spiritual value. Man cannot live by flesh alone. Whatever be the method of ordinary slaughter, animals have to be driven to market and pushed, pulled, poked, and tail-twisted by drovers in order to make them go first into the pens outside and then into the slaughter house itself. By no means can they escape some measure of rough handling. Some animals must be ‘cast’ or thrown’ so that their throats may be in a position such as to render the cut ef- fective. From the nature of the case the slaughter of large animals for food purposes must always be a repulsive sight to the ordinary person whose emotions, being powerfully stimulated, lead him to draw conclusions as to the animal’s sensations which are contrary to physiological facts. In a sense all killing is cruel, and if we are to avoid cruelty to animals we should logically abstain from the use of flesh as food and be vegetarians. But Divine Law permits the consumption of the flesh of certain animals; they are created for the service of man, even for his consumption. Hence all that can be reasonably said is that animals should be killed with a minimum of suffering and with due regard to the sentiments and principles of humanity. So the Islamic method forbids the inflicting of unnecessary pain. The only pain felt by an animal killed in the Islamic way of slaughtering is that of the cut in the skin. This is slight. Children often cut their skin without being aware of it. And herbivorous mammals are said to be less sensitive than human beings. When the cut is made the bleeding is extremely rapid. Cutting of the carotid arteries, by depriving the brain of its blood supply, pro- duces practically instantaneous loss of consciousness. A continuous supply of fresh blood at a high pressure is essential to maintain con- sciousness. Sir Wm. M. Bayliss, Professor of General Physiology in University College, London, says: “It is really indeed the oxygen MAY 1985 ISLAMIC METHOD OF SLAUGHTER 33 carried by the fresh blood that is the necessary agent for the conti- nuance of the activity of the brain.” Sir Leonard Hill throws further light on this subject. He says: “Many suppose that the movements of the head, legs and tail which quickly follow the cutting of the throat and the efforts at raising of the head and body from the recumbent position which may occur in the case of an unfastened beast, likewise the presence of the cornea! reflex, and the deep, noisy respiration, are signs of consciousness. It is asserted that this consciousness is brought about by a compen- satory supply of blood by way of the vertebral arteries. “In veterinary circles the assertion of a persistent or returning con- sciousness and capacity of feeling pain is based on the fact that the unfastened beast may make efforts to get up and escape. The opi- nion, however, of all leading physiologists, including that of our worldwide authority on the nervous system, Sir Charles Sherrington, is that these movements are merely signs of reflex action carried out by the lower nerve centers. They are seen in pigeons, rabbits, cats and dogs after removal of the great brain. Human experience of anaesthesia shows that the sensory areas of the great brain are far more sensitive than the lower centres; so, too, in the case of an in- terference with the supply of blood and oxygen by the brain. A monkey shuts its eyes and goes to sleep when the oxygen supply is greatly diminished in the air which it breaths, continues to sit and balance its movements; but it is at first difficult and then impossible to wake it up and make it open its eyes. Later, with still less oxygen supply, the motor centres fail and the animal falls over and con- vulsive movements occur. Convulsive escape movements are made when the oxygen is greatly and rapidly diminished, but the animal is by then unconscious.” The Director, Department of Applied Physiology, National In- stitute of Medical Research, writes in the Lancet, 1923, II, 1382, that when the throat is cut the centres in the lower parts of the nervous system viz., the spinal bulb and cord, continues to act for a time. Deep, gasping respirations occur, and convulsive movements which press the blood out of the muscles and organs of the belly… The whole of these actions result in almost complete drainage of blood and tissue-lymph out of the body.” Openshaw says that by no other method can all the blood be removed from the body. Blood is for- bidden in Islam. The ordinary Islamic method of slaughtering animals for food is 34 THE REVIEW OF RELIGIONS MAY 1985 very much like that of the Jews. The chief difference appears to be that in modern Judaism the Shochet (ritual slaughterer) must be ex- amined, passed and certified by the eccliastical authority as theoretically proficient and practically competent. A Jew who publicly violates the Sabbath is also ineligible to act as Shochet. THE OBJECT OF MAN’S LIFE The true purpose of the internal and external limbs and faculties that have been bestowed on man is the understand- ing of God and His worship and His love. That is why, despite occupying himself with diverse projects in this life, man does not find his true welfare except in God. Having had great wealth, having held high office, having become a great merchant, having ruled a great kingdom, having been known as a great philosopher, in the end he departs from all these involvements with great regret. His heart constantly rebukes him on his total preoccupation with worldly affairs and his conscience never approves his cunning and deceit and illicit activities. An intelligent person can appreciate this problem in this way also, that the purpose of everything is to be determined by its highest performance beyond which its faculties cannot operate. For instance, the highest function of a bullock is ploughing or irrigation or transportation. Its faculties are not adapted to anything else. Therefore, the purpose of a bullock’s life are just these three things. It has no power to do anything else. But when we look into the faculties of man and try to discover what is their highest reach, we find that he seeks after God, the Axalted. He desires to become so devoted to God that he should keep nothing as his own and all that is his should become God’s. He shares with the other animals his natural urge towards eating, sleeping, etc. In industry some animals are far ahead of him. Indeed the bees extracting the essence of different types of flowers produce such excellent honey that man has not yet been able to match them. It is obvious, therefore, that the highest reach of man’s faculties is to meet God, the Exalted. Thus the true purpose of his life is that the window of his heart should open towards God. (The Teachings of Islam by the Promised Messiah)