Ban live exports – the need for dialogue!

As my readers will know I have empathy with the case for non-stun slaughter. I do believe that in the right place and performed well by appropriately trained people zabiha or shechita is not inhumane. One the other hand it does not scale up.

My thinking is in part shaped by my understanding kosher and halal codes. These cover the journey from farm to fork. High welfare standards are required during life up to and including slaughter. After slaughter good storage, cooking and hygiene are required.

These codes, at least to me, appear to be based a concept that life is a Gift of Nature, if you are a secularist, or a Gift of God, for people of faith – hence a belief in or feel for the Sanctity of Life. Rationally, therefore, taking life should not be undertaken lightly. It should be a solemn exercise, whatever the cause.

Do we treat the slaughter of animals to eat too lightly?

How many of us merely see animals as a commodity?

I ask these questions in the context of the live export trade from countries such as Australia, where livestock production for consumption is big business. Much of Australia’s livestock are destined to provide meat for the Islamic countries of the Far East. Fortunately these countries will accept the slaughtered carcass.

Seemingly one issue is Eid-al-Adha. The Guardian recently reported on the resumption of live exports to Iran specifically for Eid-al-Adha.

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/may/28/australia-live-sheep-exports-iran

Can this expert ever be a proper thing to do?

Good Islamic values require the most humane treatment of animals throughout their transient existance on earth. How does one transport animals in bulk humanely? And by sea? Surely the animals’ experiences will not be pleasurable.

And what happens on disembarkation? Iran has given assurances.

“Iran has agreed to animal health certification protocols giving Australian exporters the green light to start shipping sheep, cattle and goats to the country.”

But how transparent will these agreements be? Will there be Australian oversight? OK, I guess that practices can be adopted to care for large numbers of animals but good halal practices must apply all the way to the point of kill. The longer the physical supply chain the more opaque it becomes – especially if the produce is passing through the care of several agencies or legal entities that ultimately rely on trust.

Now what I say next may be completely out of order and out of place. I may have the wrong concept and the wrong understanding altogether. Forgive me if that is so.

Eid-al-Adha, the Festival of Sacrifice, suggests to me the slaughter of a large number of animals in conditions that may not be wholy compatible with the best principles of zabiha.

Not doubting the right and appropriateness of a large festival of thanksgiving, do followers not need to consider seriously all the welfare considerations from the farms or ranches in Australia to the plates in Iran?

Good zabiha does not scale up easily. It should be a quiet and calm practice. Does the need for volume slaughter fit the best principles of zabiha? I don’t know and am merely asking.

Perhaps all these conditions can be met but is there not a less traumatic alternative?

Do the Australian and Western welfare authoritiesa and agencies need to be more relaxed about non-stun slaughter than they are? Surely it is not beyond the wit of man to establish sensible protocols for regulating non-stun slaughter in the country of origin. It is possible to store and ship large quantities of carcasses – for example, the UK has no issues with its New Zealand lamb.

So this will put a premium on the Iranian import cost but as I say “welfare covers the entire journey from farm to kill”. Would such arrangements not be better than the live export of animals to Iran?

In conclusion I am not comfortable with the live transport of animals over any distance and I am even more uncomfortable with sea transport. I am suggesting here that both exporting and importing countries need to look at an entire picture. Best Islamic practice may actually benefit all concerned not least the animals destined for slaughter.

Trouble in the House – What’s happening at the RSPCA?

A headline in The Times on Saturday 31st May read “Militants wage campaign to take over the RSPCA”.

Seemingly upcoming elections at the RSPCA will provide an opportunity for hardliners to establish a powerbase in the RSPCA. Seemingly the current RSPCA campaign against non-stun slaughter could be linked to a need within the RSPCA to affirm a compromise, a pragmatic and moderate stance in respect of slaughter. Successful infiltration of the RSPCA will be bad news for animal welfare. The day that the RSPCA becomes an overtly political campaigning organisation will be the day it actually takes its eye off the ball.

The hardliners appear to want to take the RSPCA towards a doctrine of Veganism. Not only will non-slaughter animals for production of meat be outlawed but so will any slaughter. Actually they have a point. We probably do eat more meat than is good for us – and possibly the environment. Our demand for meat has industrialised livestock husbandry and meat production. There is plenty of room for discussion here.

Meat consumption in developing and newly affluent countries is increasing and health may be deteriorating. The increasing need for meat in countries that may not be able easily to support livestock husbandry at a level to meet in-country demand means a growing demand for global supply chains and the need to transport live animals over very long distances. As supply chains grow longer and become ever more opaque man is losing touch with the whole process. Animals are now seen as commodities. The animal’s journey from farm to fork is nothing more than a production line. There is no spiritual contact with Nature.

I have no real objection to our being reminded about the reality of meat production. There is a role for the RSPCA to play in reawakening our sensitivities or consciences.

Our attention having be drawn to issues concerning non-stun slaughter we should be thinking about all slaughter BUT we are not. This being so, I can understand why hardliners are looking to establish an extremist, and presumably aggressive and confrontational, stronghold within the RSPCA.

Are they missing the bigger picture?

Readers of my blogs will appreciate that I have empathy with non-slaughter. I so seriously do and I back up my arguments with science – with little need to resort to “religion”.

In the context of non-stun slaughter it is clear that secular agencies are struggling to meet with “religious” agencies in order to facilitate a reasoned debate. They are simply not engaging.
Why does this matter?

Much of Western Europe and certainly the UK require stun slaughter – subject to religious exemptions. Jews and Muslims function within these restrictions – remember most halal certified is derived from stun-slaughter.

Elsewhere many Muslim countries in the Far East that need to import meat accept that stunning is appropriate. That said, some countries still have reservations about stunning – or lack the national infrastructures to establish good oversight of slaughter practice. Livestock producing countries, such as Australia, are under pressure to export live animals by sea over long distances.

I have not seen the evidence but was recently made aware that the UK exports live animals to Libya for non-stun slaughter. Seemingly although this is nominally a Muslim country pictorial evidence from there suggests that their slaughter practices are not halal. Animals do suffer.

This should be the real worry. A new look RSPCA seemingly risks becoming so dogmatic that it will see let alone recognise the whole picture. It risks pursuing an agenda that exports poor animal welfare. Is it not better, despite one’s high ideals, to have a pragmatic outlook? Is it not better to create an environment for mutual discussion with all parties at the table?

I will close with a general observation and one personal view.

The observation is that The Times editors illustrated their report with a picture of two very young innocent lambs discovering the joys of spring in a beautiful flower filled meadow. If we stop eating meat we will have no need to farm lambs. There will be no need for grass filled meadows. The countryside, especially the bits of it that are not suited to arable farming, will change beyond all recognition. What will become of our hillsides? Will “Hillsides”, the campaign group actually destroy the hillsides we love?

For the record, I recently turned fund raisers away from my front door. I wanted to say why but they were doing their job. My grief was not with them. Today my opinion of the RSPCA is even lower. Sorry.

Could I eat lamb after non-stun slaughter?

If you have been following @theoldbrewer on Twitter you may gather that I have empathy with non-stun slaughter. I have just seen some lambs in a lush green meadow here in sunny, or is it wet, Devon. Do they know their purpose in life? As they jump and skip among daisies and buttercups do they know the grass they nibble will grow and grow again but that they are destis ned for the dinner table? Presumably not. 

I am partial to my meat. I am country born and bread. My father was the son of a farmer. As a lad he trained as a butcher and later bought a small holding where he kept pigs for bacon. I am too young to remember on-farm slaughter.

Driving past these lambs I had to ask myself if they were destined for my dinner plate would I prefer them to be stunned or not stunned at slaughter. I think I might prefer the latter if it were possible and practical.

To be honest I am struggling with the stun v non-stun debate. I am struggling because although this debate is being held in public I am not convinced those participating in it are being entirely honest with their audience. It also seems a little one sided. I cannot see that at anytime those who would ban non-stun practice are talking with non-stun practitioners.

I listen to the arguments made by the British Veterinary Association, the Associate Parliamentary Group on Animal Welfare and the RSPCA but something seems to be missing. The BVA says that stunning at slaughter is a faultless procedure. They claim a 0.0004% stun failure rate using Defra/FSA data covering the past seven years or so. That’s odd because some of the most recent EU wide data is now about ten years old and points to a failure rate of 6% to 30%.

I accept the age of the data and that standards may have changed since then but wait. Stunning has been practised for almost a century, have been introduced apparently for health and safety reasons. Are our secular welfare experts telling us that they have not been able to improve on this until the past decade?

Dr Temple Grandin, the acknowledged US expert, considers that a 6% stun failure rate is “acceptable”. It seems that where standards are closely monitored the failure rate are nearer 1%. That’s in one in every hundred cases something happens to cause a stun to fail. In most cases the animal will be re-stunned. That said the authorities appear to recognise that there is a real possibility that mis-stuns are not noticed. 

Applying this to the lambs I passed in their field I was bound to ask what if those were the lambs that were mis-stunned. What indignities might they be subjected to? If the stun operator in the busy slaughterhouse doesn’t spot the problem my dinner will have endured seriously inhumane treatment. Hopefully the operator does see that he has merely caused a lot of pain and restuns quickly.
 
I haven’t spoken to any Jewish shochet but apparently they train to slaugher for seven years. Veterinarians presumably are not so trained. Who are the experts?

I am coming around to the view that non-stun slaughter in the proper place may not be wrong. I have enough knowledge of physiology to understand that when four major blood vessels in the neck are correctly,  quickly and cleanly cut unconsciousness must follow quickly. 

Do large industrial slaughterhouses provide conditions for good non-stun practice? Possibly not. OK, probably not.

Would I go out of my way to find non-stun slaughtered lamb?

Perhaps the difficulty of obtaining it should make me rethink my relationship with my liking for meat.

Christians do do halal

http://www.iera.org/press-releases/halal-kosher-meat-controversy

A good read in which reference is made to Christians observing halal or kosher practices. 

Why would they not? Halal and Kosher slaughter practices that we often call religious or ritual slaughter. Apart from a prayer, that effectively thanks Our Creator or Our Maker (to keep this secular) there is no other aspect of slaughter practice that is remotely theological. Again to keep this secular most of us have some concept of spiritually and almost all of is have a sense of “sanctity of life”. Life is obviously given by Our Maker and arguably it’s in His remit to take. When mere mortal takes a life he owes it to the animal and Our Maker to seek forgiveness. 

There being only One Maker it makes little sense for Christians not to have retained the cultural practices of the region where Christ lived.

If there is any ritual in slaughter practice it will the procedure for sharpening the knife and checking its sharpness.

I difficulty understand why Christians disown their Muslim Brothers and Sisters. They do and one Christian community leader recently seriously attacked Islam in the print media. His Christian Brothers initially refused to reign in their wayward Brother. 

Some Christians believe their Muslim Brothers and Sisters follow a different deity and use the belief to reject their Brotherhood. But that argument does not add up. How can there be more than One deity? There can only be One Creator and both Christians and Muslims equate The Creator to God and Allah respectively. God and Allah must be One. 

I am no theologian but my simple brain gets this. Why do our learned spiritual leaders struggle with this and in turn “disown” their historical traditions?

Bruce Brown

Fighting against “religious slaughter” is not racist

theoldbrewer:

I have reblogged with my comments. Both pieces long. Both the original and the response obviously claim objectivity and truth. The are two sides of the same debate.

Originally posted on Time for Action:

It isn’t racist to speak out against cruelty

Over the past fortnight the issue of ritual slaughter and stunning has been top of the news agenda across the UK.

Scotland for Animals has been campaigning for a complete end to slaughter without fully effective stunning for several years. This campaign has met serious resistance not only from governments but from other animal organisations desperate not to, in what one particular group stated, to “open a can of worms”.

Many animal rights/ welfare organisations and the British Veterinary Association have been falling over themselves to get media airtime attempting to calm the public and assure us that the welfare problems associated to ritual slaughter are overstated.

Below we would like to address some of the claims these organisations have made and give you the facts behind the spin.

The claims

“Electro immobilisation is not an approved method during slaughter and…

View original 896 more words

Challenging the misuse of the Cross

The BNP raises the Union Flag, which is a composite design based on the crosses of Christian saints. The flag is influenced by Christianity even if it is now secular device.

The English Defence League and miscellaneous extremist organisations hoists the flag of St George as a standard under which like minded people can rally.

Both bodies but particularly the EDL and like minded groupings have used the social networks to facilitate anti-Muslim hate.

After the tragic murder of Drummer Lee Rigby early in 2013 these groups made their presence known. Community tensions were high. Anti-Muslim hate attacks rose alarmingly. I know because before the murder I had arranged to meet Tell MAMA UK’s founder, Fiyaz Mughal, but in the wake of the murder he arrived very late at our appointed meeting place. He had been caught up with his work.

Mosques were being targeted for hate attacks. It was evident that supporters of the EDL or one of its clones were implicated, at least indirectly. They flocked to the national emblem based on a Christian icon.

After the murder Muslim leaders spoke as one as they stressed that the murders were un-Islamic. This had no influence on people rallying under the exremist xenophobic groups’ Christian inspired battle standards.

Clearly in the same manner that this horrible murder was not Islamic the hate revenge was not an appropriate Christian or English response. Who called on Englishmen to hold back? Who called on the people using a Christian emblem to pull away from revenge attacks?

What did Prime Minister David Cameron say? What did the Archbishop of Canterbury say? They both echoed the Muslim leaders saying that the murder was not Islamic.

The PM did not say that hate revenge was not the proper English response.

The Archbishop did not say that hate revenge was not a proper Christian response. Certainly Justin Welby did not say as much when he stood behind a Muslim leader in a joint appearance a couple days after the event.

The xenophobic right wing groups could possibly be disarmed if the PM made it very clear the use of the national flag to rally supporters was not an appropriate English/British reaction to the murder. He did not. Justin Welby could have said that Christian icons should not be as a battle standard. He did not.

Twelve months on some parliamentarians and several print media groups have got it into their brains that Muslims have a barbaric method of slaughter. Apparently Muslim bleed the animals they slaughter. Christians, Secularists and Atheist use essentially the same rituals. Most Muslims accept that in industrial slaughterhouses stunning before slaughter is prudent. All four schools of thought accept that the heart should be beating to assist bleeding out – but they don’t like talking about.

Muslims differ from Christians in that for them the slaughter is performed in person. Muslim are motivated by a strong sense of spiritualism and sanctity of life.Christians hide behind a machine. Their slaughter ritual is impersonal. Muslims have to face the animal and look it in the eye while invoking The Creator as the final deed is done. The prayer effectively thanks the Creator for His bounty and beg forgiveness for taking a precious life. Christians and Muslims believe in a common God so where does all the talk about false gods come from. I do not believe there are many Secularists and Atheists who do not have respect for the sanctity of life. So why are we at each other’s throat? [Sorry unintended pun]

Christians hide behind a machine. For them animals are there to taken.

There was an interesting development during the great halal debate of May 2014. The Church of England’s Canon Eric Woods  of Sherbourne wrote an offensive and hate ridden column in the Western Gazette – a Local World title. The negative impact of the letter must have been foreseeable. His attention would have better been utilised attacking the national media for their Islamophobic agenda.

Needless to say those of us who work alongside interfaith groups had no option but to complain formally to the Canon’s diocesan office. The Bishop was out the office. His Chaplain effectively supported his colleague’s anti-Muslim rhetoric.

Why, I wonder, do our Church leaders not unequivocally stand up for our Muslim Brothers and Sisters when they are under attack?

I opened with a reference to the misappropriation of a Christian icon by right wing xenophobic groups such as the EDL. I have questioned why Archbishop Justin Welby didn’t condemn this misuse. Perhaps Canon Eric Woods’ halal rant tells us the Church of England is “institutionally Islamophobic”.

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