On the Ritual Slaughter of Animals

The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.


Halal meat is meat from an animal that has been tortured to death.


How Much Pain and Suffering?

In its March 8, 2012 edition, Le Point, the popular mainstream French (France) weekly published excerpts from a confidential government report prepared by Le Conseil général de alimentation, de l’agriculture et des espaces ruraux on La protection animale en abattoir; la question particulière de l’abattoir rituel (Animal Protection In Slaughterhouses: The Question of Ritual Slaughter, my translation).

The excerpts reveals that during 2010, 2,068,439 cattle, 382,460 calves, 2,568,444 sheep and 35,713 goats were ritually slaughtered i.e. the animal was not rendered unconscious before being bled to death.

The longest time reported for an animal to die while fully conscious was six minutes for cattle, almost twice that time for calves at eleven minutes, and five minutes for sheep. No time was available for goats or camels.

Under the heading Intensité et durée de la douleur: souffrance (Intensity and duration of the pain: suffering), the report goes on to describe the type of pain an animal that is not stunned* prior to bleeding experiences. It’s not for the squeamish. Again, the translation is mine, as are explanatory comments surrounded by round brackets ().

The pain that a conscious animal experiences at the time of its throat being slit is assumed to be intense…

To be able to compare different method of slaughter as to the amount of pain they cause, we must take into account the visible signs that permit us to gage the intensity of the pain experienced by the conscious animals… The amount of pain will vary depending on the type of animal.

A slit throat is in itself painful:

• The incision provokes a nociceptive reaction (“pain caused by stimulation of peripheral nerve fibers that respond only to stimuli approaching or exceeding harmful intensity” Wiki) causing extreme pain;

• the contraction of the muscle at the point of the incision has to be extremely painful;

• blood will fill the lungs provoking a sensation of drowning...

The length of time it takes for an animal (that has not been stunned) to become unconscious is a result of many factors:

• the constriction of the arteries compensates for the loss of blood and causes an increase in the heart rate;

• where cattle is concerned, the vertebral arteries are not cut when the incision is done …; different anastomosis (channels) between the vertebral and cervical arteries allow the vertebral arteries to continue bringing blood to the brain even after the carotid artery has been cut;

• other factors may contribute to the time an animal remains conscious e.g. a clot in the carotid artery...

Rendering an animal unconscious is both the beginning and the end of its suffering when conventional methods are used. In the ritual slaughter of an animal, unconsciousness comes much later.

During this period, which varies among types of animals, the animal, in a conscious state, will be subjected to many painful procedures, some related to the incision made by the person performing the sacrifice, others by the stop and go (“saccadé”) nature of the ritual.


* Modern, non-ritual slaughtering methods use what is commonly referred to as a captive bolt pistol to render the animal unconscious “to prevent the pain and suffering of the animal during the bleeding (exsanguination) process (which is itself necessary to prevent meat spoilage) during butchering. The principle behind captive bolt stunning is a forceful strike on the forehead using a bolt to induce unconsciousness.” Wiki.

Why the Suffering?

Except for giving Allah credit for providing the animal to be slaughtered,  I am not aware of any verses in the Koran about meat destined for a believer's table that demands that the animal be made to suffer beforehand. The suffering comes from the example of the Prophet.

The Prophet slaughtered seven Budn (camel) with his own hands while the camels were standing. He also sacrificed two horned rams (black and white in color) at Medina.

Bukhari 26.772

Narrated Zaid bin Jubair:

I saw Ibn Umar passing by a man who had made his Badana (sacrifce) sit to slaughter it.

Ibn Umar said, "Slaughter it while it is standing with one leg tied up as is the tradition of Muhammad."

Bukhari 26.771

Narrated Abaya bin Rifaa:

My grandfather asked (the Prophet), "We hope (or are afraid) that we may meet the enemy tomorrow and we have no knives. Can we slaughter our animals with canes?"

Allah's Apostle replied, "If the instrument used for killing causes the animal to bleed profusely and if Allah's Name is mentioned on killing it, then eat its meat (i.e. it is lawful) but won't don't use a tooth or a nail and I am telling you the reason: A tooth is a bone (and slaughtering with a bone is forbidden), and a nail is the slaughtering instrument of the Ethiopians."

Bukhari 52.309

Muhammad insisted that an animal "bleed profusely" for its meat to be lawful to eat because in his day the fastest and simplest way to ascertain if an animal that showed no obvious signs of life was actually dead was to cut its throat. If blood flowed in sufficient quantity from the wound, the animal, after it had bled to dead, could be butchered and eaten.

Malik was asked about a sheep which fell down and injured itself badly and then its master reached it and slaughtered it. Blood flowed from it but it did not move.

Malik said, "If he kills it and blood flows from it and its eyes blink, he should eat it."

Malik’s Muwatta 24.3.7

What if we looked at the Prophet's example and Malik's explanation as foolproof instructions meant for Dark Ages simpletons who did not know any better and who depended on sayings and scriptures which were a reflection of the beliefs and superstitions of the Age in which they lived for guidance.

Looking at scripture ... we have to remember the age in which it was written, the environment and mental climate in which it grew, the vast distance in time and thought and experience that separates it from us. We have to forget the trappings of ritual and religious usage in which it is wrapped, and remember the social background in which it expanded.


In modern Western slaughterhouses the animal is rejected if it is not alive and well and cannot make it onto “the killing floor” with only prodding where it will be stunned into unconsciousness so that it will not feel the horrific pain of its throat being cut then bleeding to death. This care to ensure that an animal is alive but unconscious before being bled—along with someone to extend thanks to Allah for His generosity—should meet halal requirement; unless it’s all about the pain.

Allah once destroyed an entire city. He just leveled it! Men, women and children, probably in their thousands, died a horrible death, and for what? Allah utterly destroyed the city of Thamud because some jerks had the temerity to cut the hamstring of a favourite camel after one of His messengers, the mythical Arab prophet Salih, told them not to.

91:13 Then Allah’s Messenger said to them: “Beware of Allah’s she-camel and her drinking time.”

91:14 They called him a liar and hamstrung her; whereupon their Lord destroyed them for their sins and settled the matter;

91:15 And He does not fear its sequel.

God's resounding merciless response to the pain caused to a camel has to be the strongest evidence we have that the Creator of All Things does not like animals to suffer needlessly. And remember, the example of the Prophet is to be ignored if it contradicts the example of God

Bernard Payeur