Tag Archives: Halal

Why do Christians eat meat? (2)

Further to my first post under the heading “Why do Christians eat meat?” I found this:

Vegetarianism and Meat-Eating in 8 Religions

The article looks at eight European/Asian religions and their relationship to eat meat. Of these Jainism can be said to have the  most extreme views. Christianity (and possibly Islam) appears to be indifferent.

Western secular culture has arguably evolved from or been informed by a Christian value system. Atheists and Secularists seemingly eschew religious attitudes towards eating meat. Many perceive that religious taboos or considerations are man-made, artificial and attributed to a belief in a sky pixie or an imaginary friend.

This is a shame because from what I can see all religion is shaped and informed by a spiritual of Humanist attitude to and respect for, at least, sentient life.

The section on Islamic beliefs in of particular interest:

“In ancient times, meat-eating in Islamic countries was predicated on necessity. Pre-Islamic Arabs led a pastoral and nomadic existence in harsh desert climates where it would have been challenging, if not impossible, to survive on a vegetarian diet.”

“According to his earliest biographies, the Prophet Mohammed preferred vegetarian food, particularly favoring milk blended with yogurt, butter, nuts, cucumber, dates, pomegranates, grapes, figs and honey.”

“Mohammed was said to have been compassionate toward animals, and Islamic scriptures often command that all creatures be treated with care. … no creature should be harmed in Mecca …”

In The Prophet’s day people traded over large distances and into the Indian sub-continent where other religions would have been encountered. Did Mohammed’s thinking evolve from these interactions? For that matter the sect that Jesus belonged to seemingly likewise may have developed a vegetarian ideology.

Today for sure Muslims do eat a great deal of meat and animals and meat are traded over large distances in order to satisfy demand in many Muslim countries.

This excerpt raises an interesting point:

“Muslims who choose to abstain from eating meat do so for a variety of reasons. Some argue that, especially in the West, truly halal meat does not and cannot exist–that making meat halal is impossible in today’s industrialized world of factory farming. Even if the technical requirements of a halal slaughter are observed, the animals are not raised in humane and wholesome environments. They are physically abused and may be killed within view of other animals.”

I won’t develop my thoughts on this here other than to say that it confirms my belief that Muslims ought to ask themselves, “How halal is halal?” “Is a label or a halal certificate adequate?”

This statement from above may be hugely meaningful:

“Pre-Islamic Arabs led a pastoral and nomadic existence in harsh desert climates where it would have been challenging.”

I have no idea to what extent we can look at the Old Testament and view it as a reliable historical document but the exodus account must surely be based on something real. There is evidence to suggest that ancient Egyptians were mostly vegetarian. If this is so when the Hebrews under Moses leadership left Egypt they had to re-learn and adopt a nomadic lifestyle that they had forgotten. As I showed above nomadic peoples ate meat because in harsh environments it may not have been possible to live only on a vegetarian diet.

“Scholars of Judaism agree that God’s intention was for man to be vegetarian. ‘God did not permit Adam and his wife to kill a creature and to eat its flesh,’ “

If people were not used to killing animals and preparing meat to eat safely there would have been potentially serious public health consequences. On the one hand tainted meat would have led directly to food poisoning, which would have been a real issue, especially if water was not plentiful. They also had safely to dispose of the parts of the animal that they could not eat, the offal, excess fat and skeleton. You could not simply toss the waste into a spoil pit. It would have attracted scavenging pests, such as rats. That in turn would have presented other infection risks. It was burnt.

The article says of Christianity:

“Both vegetarians and meat-eaters find support in scriptures”

“Scholars tend to agree that many early Christians were vegetarians. St. John Chrysostom wrote: “We, the Christian leaders, practice abstinence from the flesh of animals to subdue our bodies.” Some experts assert that Matthew and all the Apostles abstained from eating meat.”

The idea that the first Christians were vegetarian has many proponents. That is not to say that they expected their followers necessarily to adopt a vegetarian lifestyle, however they were Jews and surely they would have promoted a kosher diet if meat was eaten.

That Muslims regard Jews and Christians, at least those living in what is now Saudi Arabia and around Mecca at the time of Mohammed, as “Peoples of the Book”. The “Book” is in essence the Old Testament, or specifically the Pentateuch, and people who followed it would have adopted kosher or halal practice.  These Christians would appear not to have been vegetarian but would presumably not have eaten pig meat.

For me the connection between Christianity and meat eating is very ambiguous. There seems to be an indifferent approach to the subject. Islam does not expound a vegetarian diet but has adopted codes and a way of life that is supposed to encourage Muslims to think about where their meat comes from.

Somewhere is the time of the early Christians there was a disconnect with traditional Jewish/kosher practice.

Mark 7 (NIV) opens by offering some parenthetical background information on  hygienic practices amongst Jews in the 1st Century CE:

1 The Pharisees and some of the teachers of the law who had come from Jerusalem gathered around Jesus 2 and saw some of his disciples eating food with hands that were defiled, that is, unwashed.  3 (The Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they give their hands a ceremonial washing, holding to the tradition of the elders. 4 When they come from the marketplace they do not eat unless they wash. And they observe many other traditions, such as the washing of cups, pitchers and kettles.)

I have to say this has to provide strong evidence that Jesus had no need to observe the strict Jewish hygiene rules because he was not eating meat, and leaves me with the original question stands. “Why do Christians eat meat?”

 

Advertisements

Why do Christians eat meat? (1)

Hardly a day passes on Twitter when someone does not criticise the Muslim practice of thanking Allah/God at the time they kill an animal to eat. Most people who condemn halal practice and completely disconnected with the methods used to produce the meat that they take for granted on the supermarket shelves. To many meat is just another commodity.

In the UK today many people would probably describe themselves as non-religious and many describe themselves as Christian are probably non-practising in that they do not pray and rarely attend church. Most people, therefore, have no concept of the background to Jewish kosher or Muslim halal practice because they live outside a religious environment. But why are practising Christians dismissive of kosher and halal practice?

Jesus and the sect that he joined were Jews. If they ate meat they would surely have eaten kosher. Kosher codes describe humane animal welfare in life and at slaughter, and hygienic cooking. What could be eaten would have been eaten. Because they could not keep raw meat for more than a couple of days eating meat became community events (hence the concept of holy days and festivals). They may well have gathered to celebrate a significant family or community event.

We probably misunderstand the meaning of “sacrifice”. Everything that could be eaten would have been eaten and not wasted. Hides or skins would have been salvaged and everything else that could not be eaten or used was burnt so that the skeletal remains could be disposed of safely so as not to attract vermin and scavengers that could bring disease.

If Jesus and his colleagues ate meat they would not have abandoned time-honoured good practice that was in fact more or less followed by many if not all religious cults at that time. I’ll hazard a guess and suggest that Jews may have done it better than many other peoples.

Somewhere along the line early Christians have lost touch with their heritage. Well not all of them – some Christians in the Middle East and North Africa have retained their cultural practices. Muslims include Jews and Christians in the term “Peoples of the Book” indicating that Christians living alongside Mohammed in and around what we call Saudi Arabia must have known how to prepare their meat the halal or kosher way.

Western Christians have little empathy with kosher and halal. Some indeed are openly hostile towards Jews and Muslims. A substantial number of Christians do not even accept that the One Creator God that Abraham followed is the same Creator God followed by Muslims. Allah is seen as a false God and presumably the world in which Muslims live is a false world. I know that does not make sense. If you believe in a Creator God there was only One Creation. Whether it was as described in Genesis or a Big Bang it happened once.

Part of the halal slaughter practice is the need for the person taking the life of an animal to thank God for his bounty and to seek forgiveness for taking the life. Many Christians cannot empathise with that. It is worth trying to understanding kosher slaughter. A Jewish shochet is not permitted to kill in anger. Thus if he gets out of bed on the wrong side he is not permitted slaughter that day. The whole process should be performed with a degree of solemnity.

If Jesus and his colleagues ate meat why would they have abandoned such practices? It is inconceivable.

I have seen a number of references to the possibility that the sect that Jesus joined was vegetarian. The Christian story most of us learn is that Jesus was the ultimate sacrifice.

Jill, Duchess of Hamilton wrote an article, “There is no role for animal sacrifice in Christianity”

Here is an excerpt:

Yet bloodless altars are a distinguishing feature of Christian churches. One of the tenets of the faith is that Jesus was the ultimate and final sacrifice. Christians atone for their sins without the shedding of blood. They look to Jesus as the lamb of God who made the ancient belief in sacrifice obsolete.

Sacrifice is how they prepared meat to eat in those days. Today’s word “slaughter” is a close synonym. The ancient skills were passed down by word of mouth, the oral tradition, from one generation of priests to the next. That is until the Second Temple was destroyed by the Romans the year 70CE. They could  no longer gather at The Temple to eat their meat. The practices were then written down or codified so that meat could be safely produced elsewhere. The skills of the priests were transferred to rabbis.

Now I pose the question, if Jesus and his associates ate meat would not all of today’s Christians have empathy with kosher practice and even try to follow it? On the other hand Jesus overthrew the money changers’ table in the Temple. The Temple authorities seemingly had monetized sacrifice and made it a business. Jesus challenged the establishment. This supports the concept that Jesus may have been vegetarian.

If this is so, why do Christians eat meat as they do?

I have just come across this:

Compassionate Eating

The writers drawn attention to the idea of “stewardship” of the planet:

Our Planet – Being the Best Steward You Can Be

In Genesis 2:15, God instructed Adam to “till” and “keep” the Garden of Eden, and by analogy we may see caring for God’s Creation as our sacred task. The typical meat eater’s diet requires up to 14 times more water and 20 times more energy than that of a vegetarian. Indeed, current use of land, water, and energy is not sustainable, and resource depletion threatens to cause great hardships for humankind this century.

A recent report concluded that worldwide livestock production contributes 51% of humanity’s greenhouse gasses. The most important thing people can do to reduce their contribution to global warming is to reduce their use of animal products.

In closing I eat meat but increasingly I look for vegetarian options on menus. I have written this because in my view Christians who oppose halal and kosher practices, especially the former, must seriously and robustly be challenged. Those who promote a vegetarian diet cannot be questioned but those who attack halal but eat meat themselves really do need to study their history.

For people who have no empathy with religion and who struggle with “religious slaughter” I can only say that our religious ancestors did not create ritual just for the hell of it. The academics and/or priests of the day would surely have clocked that there good and bad ways of prodcuing meat. Get it wrong and they were punished for the sin of taking a life in the form of food poisoning and other diseases that would have had a big impact on public health.

 

The parable of the prodigal son

No, I am not going to go all religious. I am not going to explain the meaning of the parable of the prodigal son. There are many people much better qualified to do so than I am able to do that.  I can, however, talk about the killing of the fatted calf. This story points to the practice of the time of eating meat only on special days – not least because they would never have been able to produce enough for daily consumption that we may be used to.

Of the prodigal son’s return to his family home the gospel writer, Luke, wrote:

22 “But the father said to his servants, … 23 Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. 24 For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.

How should we interpret and use these statements?

I think that it is reasonable to assume that the peoples of the Holy Lands and the neighbouring regions would not have wasted energy time and resources on rearing beef cattle in order to produce t-bone steaks. In fact we know that rearing animals just for their protein is inefficient. On the other hand, the milk from goats and cows would have been a useful renewable source of liquid protein. The “cow” is respected in Hindu for this reason. Male progeny would have been culled quite early in their lives but when big enough to eat.

From what I can see the peoples of Jesus’ time would have eaten meat only on special occasions. Indeed I have read that in Greek tradition that they gathered to eat meat on either special days, say birthdays, or on days commemorating events that were special to the community. For Jews the Passover is a special event. The completion of the gathering of the current year’s harvest would have been marked by a harvest festival. The winter solstice would have been a special occasion as people looked forward to a cycle of new life. With different iterations of calendars Christmas and New Year celebrations have become detached from the winter solstice but clearly that must be the origin of these festivals. But I digress.

Why would meat from lamb, goats and calves have been eaten only on special days?

One reason is that if a lamb, goat or calf is going to be big enough to eat it will probably be too big for the nuclear family – mum, dad, 2.4 children and one or two grandparents, perhaps. For sure if they were going kill and take the life of an animal they would not want to waste anything that could be eaten. They would have gathered the extended family together and probably included their servants.

Alternatively they would have had a community event, a street party, as it were. You can imagine that a long-lost community member returning home would have meant something to the whole community as well as the immediate family. Again nothing that could be eaten would have been wasted and we can see the concept of charity developing as meat was distributed to the poor.

How do I know this? I recently went to a Muslim wedding feast. There was plenty of meat and there seemed to be plenty left over. I am told that it was taken away and distributed so as not to waste it.

Contrast that with a secular love affair with meat. I remember when Marks and Spencer started selling fresh food and short-dated ready meals. The shelves were usually empty by mid-afternoon. There was clearly a policy of not overstocking so that little meat was thrown away. Today we expect to see supermarket shelves full so that we can buy meat at almost anytime of the day. Much gets wasted posing the question: “How many animals die in vain?”

I have written this in part in the context of the often ill-informed conversations about the cruelty of halal slaughter. What I have described are infrequent occasions when meat was eaten in Biblical times. Animals were or should have been killed with reverence. They were cooked with care. There were probably good practical reasons. Animals treated badly at slaughter may well not have produced good meat. Improper cooking would have led to food poisoning. Throwing the inedible carcass onto a spoil heap would have attracted vermin and posed a health risk so they learned to burn it.

This is the origin of sacrifice. It’s how they prepared their meat in Biblical times and earlier. They probably gathered at a dedicated piece of land kept clean and protected for this purpose – hence the concept of consecrated land.

I think that we can say for sure that the peoples of Biblical times did not know about bacteria but for sure they, or rather their priests or prophets, would have been able to work out what was good and bad practice. We can also assume that they had a sense of the “sanctity of life”. In Muslim tradition a prayer effectively to thank Our Creator for his bounty and to ask forgiveness for taking life is offered. Jews do something similar. Christians traditionally say grace at mealtimes.

In our secular world all these considerations are abandoned. We expect to eat meat any day. We are usually disconnected from its production. We have introduced intensive rearing and industrial slaughter where animals are treated as mere commodities. Some this is changing. In recent years we have become aware of factory farming and campaign against it but we care not to think too much about what happens between the farm gate and supermarket shelves. We have moved a long way from the reverential concept of sacrifice around two thousand years ago and earlier. Too many of us are too quick to condemn the religious component of slaughter but perhaps we need to revisit it.

Ritual slaughter = Sacrifice = The Way of preparing meat to eat (part 1)

From the Wikipedia entry on ritual slaughter

In antiquity, ritual slaughter and animal sacrifice was one and the same. Thus, as argued by Detienne et al(1). for the Greeks, consumption of meat not slaughtered ritually was unthinkable, so that beyond being a tribute to the gods, Greek animal sacrifice marked a cultural boundary, separating “Hellenes” from “barbarians“. Greek animal sacrifice was Christianized into slaughter ceremonies involving Greek Orthodox Christian ritual, known as kourbania.

From the Wikepedia entry “kourbania”

Kourbania (Greek) via Turkish Kurban; from the Arabic qurban “sacrificial victim”; compare Hebrew korban) refers to a practice of Christianized animal sacrifices in some parts of Greece. It usually involves the slaughter of lambs as “kourbania” offerings to certain saints.

The practice involves the blood sacrifice of a domestic animal to either a saint, taken as the tutelary of the village in question, or dedicated to the Holy Trinity or The Virgin. The animal is slaughtered outside the village church, during or after the Divine Liturgy, or on the eve of the feast day.

I am writing this for the twittersphere and one tweeter who espouses a Judeo-Christian traditions and eschews Islamic ritual with no apologies. She makes no secret of her alienation to dhabiha or zabiha. I am sorry if it’s too brief.

When you look into the history of sacrificial ritual you discover that there is no such thing as “ritual slaughter” – rather it is an unhelpful term along with the word “sacrifice”.  That is how they killed their animals to eat.

Martin Henig, in his “Religion in Roman Britain” (Routledge; New Ed edition (5 July 1995)), describes how the people of Britain would have had feelings of guilt when killing. He refers to animals, in his words, needing to be willing. Perhaps animals should not resist or baulk but be relaxed, at ease and stress-free. This presumably made sense because a tense and stressed animal firstly would not have been easy to cut cleanly and secondly presumably produced tough meat.

We can surmise that with the concept of the “sanctity of life” people would not have killed what few animals they had just to waste the meat. It is also reasonable to presume that a typical nuclear family could not polish off a goat or lamb or small male calf  in one sitting. (Females were kept for milk and they would not have wasted resources on raising males like we do – it’s inefficient.) They could not store meat easily in hot climates hence the concept of community festivals whereby at least extended families or whole villages or tribes came together to celebrate a significant family event, the return of the prodigal son, or a saint or some other community event, such as harvest festival or passover.

Seemingly all the meat that could be eaten would have been eaten. The inedible parts of the carcass that could not be used or eaten was offered to God (or the gods) by burning – in effect sterilising them. Not doing so would have presented public health risks – rat infestations and diseases from infection. Given that they could not possibly have known about germs and micribiology they would have worked out good and bad practice. Bad practice would have equated to sins and God (or their god) would have punished them.

Seemingly also they gathered on what today we call consecrated (clean) ground – specifically in The Temple (latterly synagogues). That’s what Christian Churches and Mosques are modelled on. Apparently, according to Greek sources the meat could not be taken away – that makes sense as even today extreme care is needed if you are going to store cooked meat. Eating in the temple meant that cooking and eating was supervised, as it were, and the whole was conducted by trained operatives, priests, for the want of a better word.

The priests were trained to kill humanely. In Islamic tradition it is forbidden to eat meat from an animal that have been treated badly at any time in its life. Bludgeoning or clubbing to death was clearly not a humane option. They would have no idea how successful or how quick that would have been – and that appears to have been the case in modern slaughterhouses until the last decade of the twentieth century where modern clubbing techniques are in use. Check out Animal Aid investigation.

Modern “high welfare” slaughterhouse conditions are not necessarily good. Here is a 2009 example of a Soil Association approved “high welfare” slaughterhouse that was later unapproved. In fairness modern slaughterhouse conditions are improving but most significant changes have been in this century but welfare at slaughter is probably not uppermost in many peoples’ minds when they pick meat from a supermarket shelf.

To understand the role of the priest in ancient time it’s helpful to learn what is required to train a Jewish shochet. My father, a farmer’s son, trained as a butcher before the Second World War when farmers killed their own animals to take to the local town markets. They would have learned to kill, at least small animals, without stunning and would have needed to know that if any meat was unfit for human consumption.

Sadly I did not realise the significance of a picture that I saw in a book in the British Library and did not keep the reference but it described the initiation of Mithraic priests and one of the skill they required was what we would call “meat inspection” today. I have seen other references to what must be the same need in other cultic and religious practices.

Christians and Secularists are very quick to mock halal and I have written here because I recently discovered that followers Greek Orthodox Christianity traditions may not only be familiar with slaughter practices we associate with Jews and Christians but they have also retained the word “kourbania”, which is an obvious cognate of the Arabic and Islamic word “qurban”.

Other Christian practices ally with Jewish and Muslim practice.

Again from Wikipedia -Religious restrictions on the consumption of pork

Among many Christian sects, the restrictions were interpreted to be lifted by Peter’s vision of a sheet with animals. However, Seventh-day Adventists consider pork taboo, along with other foods forbidden by Jewish law. The Ethiopian Orthodox Church(2) does not permit pork consumption, while the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria is divided on the subject(3)

It seems that those who criticise ritual slaughter need to think outside the box. Western Christians apparently may have absorbed pagan or heathen practices.

(1) M. Detienne, J.-P. Vernant (eds.), The Cuisine of Sacrifice among the Greeks, trans. Wissing, University of Chicago Press (1989)

(2) Charles Kong Soo Ethiopian Holy Week clashes with Christians’ 21 April 2011 Trinidad and Tobago Guardian Retrieved 11 March 2012

(3) “Egypt Copts Divided Over Pork”. OnIslam.net. 25 August 2007. Retrieved 8 March 2014.

 

 

Has Secularism gone too far?

The online headlines read

RT.com –

Historic Hollande-Rouhani dinner scrapped die to insistence on wine and non-halal meat;

The Telegraph –

Francois Hollande – Hassan Rouhani lunch binned over “wine row”;

The Washington Post –

France won’t dine with Iran unless win is served.

France has a Secular constitution separating state and church/religion. This is laudable but is there a risk that if the state simply does not talk about religion and does not teach it, at least in an academic manner, that people will lose touch with the rational elements of “religious” practice? People of faith become isolated and ignored by their state.

Have we sort of not been here before? Anti-Semitism before the Second World War was presumably normalised and few knew how to engage with Jews on a spiritual or moral basis because they simply had no grasp of what Judaism was. In any event Jews killed Jesus. Best not to engage except peripherally. Jews were isolated specifically in Germany and we know the consequences.

Is Secularism is on the verge of becoming the new religion? Has it already achieved that status in France?

Surely Secularism has to be informed tolerant and able to engage with religion, however tangentially, sufficiently so that it can understand some of the underlying principles underpinning religions. To be fair that’s not going to be easy because often people of faith also cannot explain their religion’s underlying values comfortably. There is unease and friction whenever and wherever Secularism and religion come into contact.

I have to admit to struggling to understand Christianity even though I label myself a Christian – as a flag of convenience as much as anything. Christianity does not exist as a homogenous concept and if you unpick it in a historical context you begin to realise that Western, Roman or Pauline Christianity may be very different from the philosophy promoted by Jesus.

I do not want to go into detail here except to say the first Christian movement was merely one of a number of Jewish sects – not even Judaism existed as a single settled homogenous faith system in Christ’s time, any more than Christianity exists as a homogenous religion today. It is, however, important to remember that, as Jews and if they ate meat, Christ and his followers would have been very comfortable with Jewish kosher practices. In addition they spoke Aramaic which is linguistically very similar to Arabic so they may well have been familiar with terms that we associate with Islam, which was not codified until the seventh century.

I believe there is a difference between the sect and the philosophy that Jesus espoused and that promoted by Paul. The Western Christianity that we know absorbed “pagan” ideas as it was assimilated into the Roman Empire. This is sufficient for Western Christianity not to have empathy with its co-religions – Judaism and Islam. This is highlighted by Christians comfortably eating pig meat and generally not associating itself with kosher and halal food hygiene codes.

We also need to recognise that the way in which much Western civil society is structured can be attributed to foundations laid by the Christian Church – especially health and education. I guess that until the Enlightenment what is now an independent university system may have been very much associated to with the Church. In the Middle East academia and Islam went hand in hand.

Now if that influence has largely come from Western Christianity it is easy to see how Secular Western society has little little empathy with either Judaism or Islam.

To keep this brief, you can see from Jewish and Islamic codes that among things personal and public health concerns were paramount and still are but this is not taught in a Secular world, which is largely informed by Western Christian thinking. “We” find comfort is presuming that Bronze Age and later Biblical peoples cannot possibly have understood modern concepts of food hygiene. For sure they could not have known about germs but they would certainly have clocked that there was a good and bad way of cooking food. They would surely also have worked out that there was a good and bad way of killing animals to eat. Get these practices wrong and you get food poisoning from the former and tough and uneatable meat if animals were not killed in a humane stress-free manner.

These observations informed first, Jewish and later Islamic codes. They were cultural rather than religious. Some Christians have retained these cultural practices. Kosher and halal dietary rules are

Now if this is not taught and specifically excluded from state debate when the President of Iran, Hassan Rouhani, knocks on your door in attempt to rebuild bridges between his isolated state and the West, and in this case France, how can you entertain him? How does this look to the people of Iran when their leader relaxes his attitude to the West, makes a conscious effort to re-engage, and is rebuffed by the very people who demand that Iran should re-engage.

The roots of anti-Semitism can in part be attributed to Christianity’s blaming Jews for the crucifixion of Jesus and in part Christianity’s losing touch with kosher/halal dietary codes. You can see these traits in Secularism.

It strikes me that Secularism has to be flexible. If Secularism is truly objective it will be able to grasp the rational behind kosher and halal codes but it cannot. Secularists are quick to point to “sky pixies” and “imaginary friends” when these codes have as much relevance today as they did two millenia ago.

Many blame dogmatic religion for many of the world’s ills (they may not be wrong) but is Secularism at risk of becoming equally dogmatic and isolationist or insular?

For sure it seems that in France a form a aggressive Secularism has prevented state officials from knowing how to accommodate a leader who is trying to make amends with the West.

France appears not to be a good place right now. Its brand of Secularism has led it there.

Secularists need to join up their thinking on meat consumption

I have just engaged is a longish Twitter chat with someone very opposed to non-stun slaughter. I know, it’s a pointless exercise as Secularists have made up their minds and follow Secular scientists with a religious zeal that matches any Muslim. Below I show a section of the thread but first, let me state my position.

Our demand for large quantities of cheap meat requires industrial scale slaughter and not to stun is unconscionable. I have recently read that in Israel one, if not two kosher, slaughterhouses have been shut down on welfare grounds. Issues have also been identified in the USA. I am in no doubt that except in well-designed facilities non-stun slaughter does not scale up easily. In addition there are issues relating to training.

Fully trained Jewish shochet train over seven years or so. It’s a long period. One hundred years ago when farmers prepared their own meat for market many would also have undergone extensive training. My father was so trained and I gather that he did not stun sheep or pigs. Large beef steers were another matter. Eye witnesses say that sheep and pigs merely slipped away.

Dr Temple Grandin has written a great deal on slaughter welfare and advocates stunning but she has studied non-stun practice and attests that when done correctly it does not appear to cause pain. Here website is extensive. Here is a link to one of her papers.

Religious slaughter and animal welfare: a discussion for meat scientists.

She is clear non-stun slaughter performed to good standards is not unacceptable. When performed with unsuitable kit non-stun slaughter is not good. My support for non-stun practice is heavily qualified, as is Dr Grandin’s.

The Tweet that caught my eye:

MJ: … Even Tariq Ramadan has condemned the cruelty and waste.(See Tariq Ramadan Twitter).

BB(me): There plenty of good reasons to question our love affair with meat. Waste is surely a bigger issue with secular practice. Waste is an animal dying in vain

MJ: The animal wouldn’t care about whether it was wasted. Just pain and fear. Put yourself in its position

Discussion:

The name Tariq Ramadan is indicative of his being Muslim. Clearly his comments must allude to more than the issue of stunning. The Muslim position condemns cruelty. An animal that has suffered (at the hand of man) both in life and death cannot be considered halal.

The word “waste” caught my eye. In Biblical times the peoples who ate meat for sure understood the “sanctity of life”. Sacrificial rituals in part reflected their guilt for taking a sacred life. They worked out a right and wrong way of doing it humanely and hygienically.

Apart from birds most animals that they deemed suitable to eat were too big for the nuclear family to eat so they were shared around in the context of festivals, community gatherings at which the proverbial fatted calf was eaten. These festivals are one origin of charity or poor relief that is a strong feature in Isalm. Quite probably nothing that could be eaten or used, for example fleeces and hides, was wasted. To simply waste edible meat would have reinforced their guilt. What was inedible or used was offered to the Gods. It was burnt, in effect sterilised, so that the skeleton could be thrown away safely and not attract vermin. Nothing that could be utilised was wasted.

Tariq Ramadan must surely have been alluding to this thinking and practice.

That said, the word “waste” caught my eye for another reason. How much meat slaughtered to satisfy secular meat eaters is thrown away? How many unsold meat filled sandwiches do food retailers throw away? How many cook chill prepared meals are simply wasted because they have not been sold before a reasonable best before date?

How many of us think about where our meat came from when we consume it and how well it was actually treated – especially at death? How many of us offer a wee prayer to “Our Maker” thanking him for His bounty and by way of seeking forgiveness for taking a life to satisfy our needs. If we do not believe is a God or a Creator there is no one to thank and we can therefore only see animals and meat as a commodity. Therein lies a paradox. We do have feelings of guilt and we do have a concept of the sanctity of life requires us to give an account of our actions to ??? Would that ??? be God, or a god, or some other spiritual Supreme Being? That’s a discussion for another day.

MJ’s “The animal wouldn’t care about whether it was wasted. Just pain and fear. Put yourself in its position” suggests to me someone who needs to join up his/her thinking

Of course animals won’t know if they are about to be killed merely to be thrown into landfill or composted or burnt for energy. If they are killed on their own and in the absence of cues that suggest death they will have nothing to fear. However, pack them into a big lorry, however, drive them to the other end of the country, unload them straight into the slaughterhouse without any time in lairage in order to relax and chill out and they could well be stressed. If they are stressed they may not stun easily and their trauma will be compounded.

Now, to be frank this applies equally whether stunning is deployed or not. Animals that are agitated and tense when they cut will not cut easily. If the knife is not well sharpened and nick free it will lacerate or tear surrounding tissue and there may be bruising – both causing pain. Despite the blood a razor-sharp knife actually damages very little and presumably cuts through many nerves in its pathway. I do not doubt that nerves are stimulated but what sensations will the animal feel, when and for how long? Obviously we cannot be sure but most men will have experienced shaving nicks. Most of us have experienced the lightheadedness that precedes a faint. Neither can match a severe headache that must surely follow a mis-stun. How painful will an electric shock be if it is not effective first time?

Conclusion

The welfare of animals at slaughter is a big issue but let’s not kid ourselves that secular slaughter with stunning ritual and the religious fervour generated in defending it is fully informed. Very few people see what happens between the farm gate and the supermarket shelves. If we did care we would ask many more questions than we do. The people who slaughter on our behalves often detach themselves from the process. Slaughter is not a pretty site. It’s made slightly more tolerable because machines do the final deed. Even if operated my man there is a barrier between the man and the beast. That’s critical to our thinking.

True halal and kosher practice and custom creates a personal connection between man and beast. It’s close and personal. Now, that may well be the real issue in this debate. Secular practice is impersonal and we simply do not think or even care about it (until prompted) but so-called “religious” or “ritual” slaughter requires the consumer to reflect on the situation. Do Jews and Muslims reflect enough? Probably not but that’s a discussion for another day – except to say that bad practice can be found in both kosher and halal slaughter facilities trying to produce cheap meat in quantity while we rarely see what occurs in our secular slaughter temples.

The Danish Kosher-Halal slaughter ban

Twitter grab non-stun

I came across this Tweet after I started this post but it confirms my belief. This Tweet is clear there are people who would ban Jews and Muslims from observing good meat production practice. My post was going top start here.

Please be in no doubt the Danish ban on non-stun slaughter has nothing to do with humane slaughter.

A central and core element of good kosher/halal practice that may not be obvious is transparency of the supply chain. I came across this when reading around the horse meat scandal that broke in 2014. Long opaque international supply chains for processed meat products allowed horse meat to be mixed with beef and to be sold as beef.

Kosher/halal codes start high welfare animal husbandry. In the UK there is a growing Secular demand for locally produced high welfare meat. We are seeing a demand for farmers’ markets. In theory it ought to be possible for consumers to see and observe any stage in the supply chain. In practice an element of trust occurs – that’s trust in the people you know. It is the same with halal meat.

Although I did  not save the reference, at the time of the horse meat scandal I read about halal meat not leaving the sight of a Muslim. The the idea immediately made sense. In brief you should not eat meat whose provenance you did not know and supplied by people you do not know or should not trust.

In Secular Britain we have a range of quality marks that are supposed to assure that products are made to agreed standards.

The RSCPA has recently renamed its “Freedom Foods” mark as “RSPCA Assured“. Then there is the “Red Tractor” quality mark.

What do these quality marks tell us? The Soil Association’s website includes this statement:

While every effort is made to ensure that the information listed is accurate and up to date, it is the sole responsibility of the individual producer to check the organic status of the abattoir and associated services at time of slaughter.

It seems we have to trust what people say. The longer the supply chain the more opaque it must be and the more trust we have to place in more and more people that we can never know.

In February 2015 Animal Aid released covert filming from a non-stun abattoir in the North of England. The images placed in the public domain are distressing to say the least. In a statement that was released with the images was this:

… Yorkshire Lamb is the tenth slaughterhouse in which we have filmed undercover since January 2009. As with the others, we didn’t know what we would find when our cameras were planted, including that it was a halal establishment – the first we have investigated. All the other nine were practising so-called ‘humane slaughter’. Two were Soil Association-approved, and another was accredited by the RSPCA’s Freedom Foods scheme. In eight out of the nine, we found serious welfare breaches, including animals being kicked, punched in the face, given electric shocks, burnt with cigarettes and thrown about prior to having their throats cut …

Animal Aid cameras are in place for very short periods (a matter of a few days) so if the distressing incidents that have been captured are rare then Animal Aid would have had to be very lucky to have been around when they occur.

The Animal Aid images from the non-stun slaughter facility show that even “halal” certified meat may not be produced to a guaranteed standard implied by the label.

Go onto the Internet and you will find reports of breaches of welfare standards even from facilities selling into the Jewish Kosher market – even in Israel itself.

Countries that are banning non-stun are not doing so for humane reasons. Animal Aid filmed mostly in “humane” slaughterhouses. The truth is that even here in the UK we cannot be assured that the meat we consume has come from animals that did not suffer in the last moments of their lives in Secular slaughterhouses. Here in the UK with its high standards we do not know if meat has been humanely processed – that’s within country.

The Danish government will have been aware of these issues when it banned non-stun practice within Denmark. It will have known that it is forcing Jews and Muslims, who very reasonably believe that meat should be locally produced and distributed through short transparent supply chains, to eat from meat from unknown sources. Denmark has in effect knowingly introduced discriminatory legislation.

Why would it do so? To protect its Secular meat trade from criticism?

Have you noticed that when Secularists want to show that their rituals are “humane” they never show you the graphic bleeding out? There is an assumption that stunning is a foolproof procedure – when little is known about the rate of mis-stunning which may be more that 1 in 20 animals. Insiders tell me that production lines slow down when Defra’s official inspectors are snooping around the slaughter halls. Others tell me that increasingly veterinary surgeons are avoiding eating meat – now that would make for an interesting study and would be very informative.

I introduced this post under the guise of the recent Danish ban on non-stun slaughter. The ban requires Jews and Muslims to buy meat from ever increasingly opaque supply chains. I have shown evidence that Secular slaughterhouses have issues and that Secular supply chains are not transparent.

Halal and Kosher dietary laws are derived from knowing where the meat one eats has come from and how it died. Good Secular practices promote the same principles and there may be growing interest in supporting local meat producers and distributors – by using family butchers, farmers’ markets and farm shops. Good Secular practice seems to be in harmony with good halal and kosher practice. This leads to one conclusion – banning non-stun slaughter must be rooted in anti-Semitism.

I have been provocative but as we know proper halal/kosher slaughter practice, applied by people with proper training and in the proper places is a non-inferior practice. In America and here in the UK non-stun facilities catering for the halal or the kosher markets have been found wanting – and so have Secular facilities operating under quality marks that are meant to assure humane stun slaughter.

I guess the bottom line is that if we want cheap meat in quantity we have to reduce our welfare expectations – or give increasing consideration to reducing our meat consumption.