It is widely presumed that people may now be unknowingly buying meat which is Kosher, Halal or whatever in their weekly shopping, because there is no legal requirement to flag it. The EU was considering legislation demanding that retailers, canteens and restaurants would be obliged to label all meat clearly back in 2010 but then quietly dropped it because, apparently, representing the interests of the population and ensuring the free supply of information simply isn’t what they’re all about.
Now, I have no issue with those who wish to follow archaic belief systems – we all of us choose to live with certain illusions and delusions – but a great many of us aren’t superstitious and would prefer to know that the meat which we consume has come from animals which were stunned prior to slaughter. Personally, I’d prefer a blindfold and a cigarette to having mystical chants performed in front of me while I bled to death, but there are constraints to follow because mythic figures in the dim and distant past reckoned that there were specific ways that god wanted an animal to face oblivion before it was carved up and eaten.
…At least, that was the position that I expected to take when I set out to write this article. I dislike religion generally because “God told me to do it” is no better a defence than “I was only following orders” and it is often used as a cover by the mentally enfeebled for being utterly reprehensible human beings. Inconveniently, though, once I started to do some digging I found that conflicting studies muddied the waters a little: some research has shown that proper and professional ritual slaughter of livestock is virtually painless; other reports indicate that mis-stunning is far from uncommon, causing much pain and suffering to the creature. Truly unbiased data is hard to come by but it seems that there may well be very little to tell between any of the techniques when they are administered perfectly and that most people involved really do want to absolutely minimise the suffering experienced by the animals. Indeed, electrical stunning has been adopted by many Muslim dhabiha practitioners prior to slaughter, which seems to be both religiously acceptable and perhaps the best solution of all.
As always, the problem is one of ignorance and fear: the animals don’t know what’s coming and then, right at the end, they’re terrified. Given that we consider ourselves to be an advanced and enlightened society, we probably ought to concentrate on eliminating any form of animal cruelty – and that means getting together to find common ground, not differences, and working out a solution. If some people can’t reconcile their perception of god or morality to include being merciful then they can always choose vegetarianism.
Of course, another alternative might be to dope animals before despatch – but then we’d run the risk of those drugs being passed down through the food-chain, potentially reducing humans to docile, soporific vessels of consumption. Just imagine what that might be like…
Personally, I hope that the Buddhists are right and everything gets born over and over again in a cycle. Just think… in an after-life somewhere, the cows, pigs and sheep are waiting for us, stamping their hooves, and the chickens must be spitting feathers.