Depressingly, I noticed in the paper today that the incidence of religious slaughter has increased, by as much as half in some cases, in the last couple of years or so. For the uninitiated, religious slaughter generally means killing an animal without stunning them first. As if the sometimes intensively farmed animals had not gone through enough with their cramped cages, many having never seen outside until the day they’re bundled onto a truck to be taken to what amounts to a torture camp and house of death.
And that’s the interesting thing. Both Kosher and Halal meat is guilty of the non-stunning of animals, and the British government, in their ‘wisdom’ have decided that there should be exemptions to basic animal welfare if there are religious ground – something the British Humanist Society, amongst others, takes issue with. But from the Jewish point of view there are many Jews, including holocaust survivors themselves, that see the factory farming of today as little more than a non-human animal version of the holocaust. In fact, Israel has been flagged up recently as one of the most vegan-friendly countries in the world. Life is certainly no picnic for vegetarian or vegan Muslims either, as this article on an Egyptian festival of sacrifice shows. It seems crazy considering the numerous Islamic teachings that promote kindness towards animals. Many chain restaurants including Pizza Express (whose chicken is all halal), Subway and KFC, have halal options as standard. However, before we go blaming religious people for dragging down animal welfare standards, maybe we should take a long hard look at ourselves.
Animal Aid have a campaign going at the moment to try and make it law for there to be properly reviewed CCTV in all slaughterhouses in the UK. This comes from an investigation they did a few years ago, where they randomly chose nine slaughterhouses and filmed secretly inside. They found animal welfare laws being broken, routinely, in eight of them. This included all sorts of horrific behaviour, such as kicking and stamping on animals, grabbing them by their ears and even burning cigarettes out on them. Clearly this is not what the public think they are supporting by ‘buying British’ and so-called high welfare abattoirs seemed to be no better than standard ones. The government doesn’t seem to think we have a problem. They are clearly deluded as to the conditions inside abattoirs, either that, or they don’t care. Either way things need to be cleaned up across the board. Whether slaughter is religious or not (because some halal meat is said to be from stunned animals, but definitions in this area tend to be hazy) we have to sit up and recognise that animals are not things. They are not objects. They feel pain and fear and as Jeremy Bentham the utilitarian philosopher (born in the eighteenth century) said ‘The question is not Can they reason? nor Can they talk? but Can they suffer?’ a sentiment echoed years later by the great Peter Singer in his ground-breaking work ‘Animal Liberation’.
As you will have guessed by now, I have a very simple solution to all of this cruelty, crisis of conscience and confusion. I don’t think we need to point the finger at religious slaughter in particular, or indeed regular slaughterhouses really. We need to point the finger squarely at ourselves. There is no supply where there is no demand. Cut out the middle man and go vegan. Easy.
(If you’d like to help get CCTV into slaughterhouses, sign this petition before 30th March 2015. Thank you.)