Guardian: The debate over when meat is halal and whether it should be clearly labelled has been put back on the agenda by vets and animal welfare campaigners who want all animals slaughtered for food to be stunned before killing.
The Arabic word halal means permissible, and the rules of slaughter are based on Islamic law. The animal has to be alive and healthy, a Muslim has to perform the slaughter in the appropriate ritual manner, and the animal’s throat must be cut by a sharp knife severing the carotid artery, jugular vein and windpipe in a single swipe. Blood must be drained out of the carcass.
About 40m cattle, sheep, pigs and calves and 900m poultry birds are killed in British abattoirs each year, according to a Food Standards Agency (FSA) report two years ago, and one estimate has suggested that 114m of these animals, including poultry, are killed using the halal method. The value of the market could be £2bn a year or more.
But contrary to what many assume, most animals killed by halal methods are stunned before slaughter. FSA estimates suggest that 88% of animals in the UK killed by halal methods were stunned beforehand in a way that many Muslims find religiously acceptable.
In many sheep and lambs this is by electronic stunning to the head or in poultry via a water bath electrified with enough power to make them unconscious but not to kill. Another method of stunning that involves cardiac arrest is not allowed under halal rules.
In non-halal slaughterhouses, stunned animals are shackled and hoisted above the ground where a slaughterman “sticks” them, cutting their throat or inserting a chest stick close to the heart. Cattle and some sheep and pigs are stunned by a bolt through the brain before being killed.