Lord Sheikh’s speech in the House of Lords on the 16th January 2014 on Animal Welfare: Methods of Slaughter
My Lords, I speak as a Muslim who consumes halal meat regularly.
Islam forbids the mistreatment of animals; the welfare of animals is enshrined in Muslim beliefs. The Prophet Mohammed—peace be upon him—has said:
“A good deed done to an animal is like a good deed done to a human being, while an act of cruelty to an animal is as bad as cruelty to a human being”.
Islam permits the slaughter of animals for food, but dictates that such slaughter must be exercised humanely. There has never been any conclusive scientific evidence to suggest that religious slaughter is less humane than conventional mechanical methods. The controversy revolves primarily around the issue of stunning. Exemption from stunning is allowed for halal and kosher slaughter. In halal slaughter the animal ceases to feel pain due to the immediate brain starvation of blood and oxygen. For the first few seconds after the incision is made, the animal does not feel any pain. This is followed by a few seconds of deep unconsciousness as large quantities of blood are drained from the body. Thereafter, readings indicate no pain at all.
It is important to consider that prohibiting halal meat would have profound social and economic implications. There are now 2.7 million Muslims in the United Kingdom, 4.8% of the population. Halal meat accounts for between 10% and 15% of UK meat sales; some of this meat is, however, pre-stunned. People from allj religions and backgrounds now choose halal as an alternatively produced meat.
I want to see a rigorous code of conduct and an efficient system of self-regulation. This would reassure non-Muslims that such animals are being respected and standards are being adhered to. I would also like a full and transparent system of labelling for all meats, so that the consumer can make an informed decision about the meat they buy. Labelling should not be confined to religiously slaughtered meat. Finally, Islamic leaders have asked the Jewish community for guidance on this, and I hope they can work together.