Tag Archives: religious slaughter

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.

 

If this were a clinical trial

There has been an onslaught on halal certified meat over the past week or so. The discussion is not new but for some reason the forces ranked against “halal” have united and making a concerted effort to marginalise Islam. They say theirs is not a “crusade” but to those of us watching what else can it be?

My respect would increase if those attacking Islam would just admit that may be, just may be, a genuine lack of knowledge is underpinning a fear of the unknown. “Islamophobia” could not be a more apt word. Phobia irrationale fear. Call me a reformed Islamophobe if you will. Like a reformed smoker I may have become a zealot. Well, so what? Someone has to challenge the misperceptions. 

The current battle was probably sparked by the British Veterinary Association’s incoming president coming into land with all guns ablaze.  Non-stun was going to be banned. This is a man with a life science background and a professional who should be listening to the arguments. If his opponents, in religious slaughter experts, are wrong he must back his argument with the robust science that supports well the case for non-stun – when done properly in a proper place. Above all he needs to debate with them and when that has failed approach pparliament and the media. But No.

The Associate Parliamentary Group on Animal Welfare wanted to unpick this debate. It has been known for some time that “humane” stunning procedures used by Secularists (and Christians) fail in up to 30% of cases. The data is not up to date and is probably nearer 5% but the truth is no one really knows. There wasn’t standard data collection tool for EU countries. The European Food Standards Agency was discussing this as late as last December. 

The UK FSA provided a written reply to the APGAW’s request for data on the rate of mis-stuns Iin UK slaughterhouses. The data was presented in a simple table. To be honest the figures looked brilliant. The BVA took the figures and calculated, correctly,  that the rate of mis-stuns was 0.0004%. In the world of human medicine this would be negligible. 

Let’s unpick the FSA data. How was it collected? What methodology was used? Has the methodology be subjected to a peer review in the public domain. All these questions and more would be asked of any clinical trial for a new medicine or surgical procedure claiming superior treatment outcomes.

John Blackwell and colleagues, all life science professionals, are more than able to scrutinise the data but here’s a thing. The FSA data covered four or five years. It was known that the data were so good relative to what known before that they have not been placed in the public domain.  That prompted me to ask questions.

It’s now dawning on me that if someone was trialling a new drug or surgical procedure for use in human medicine the trial would stopped early if unequivocal data should truly unimaginable benefits.

In this case, compared to all other EU countries, if the UK had such a superior outperformance the European Commission, or whoever, would have no option but to ban cross border trade in meat until every country had brought its standards up to UK standards. Indeed if animal welfare were unerpinning the current debate the UK would have long since banned the import of all meat without waiting for the EU.

There is no ban. Why? Be

cause the data does not support the BVA case.

 

 

As I say, if this were a clinical trial? If this were a trial objectivity would be a pre-requisite.

 

 

As I also say genuine ignorance and lack of knowledge is driving this debate. No one is chairing it and it’s getting out of hand.

My week on Twitter

While not being sure that non-stun slaughter is superior or inferior to stun slaughter, I am certain the difference is marginal. John Blackwell, the British Veterinary Association’s incoming president, told The Times that he wanted non-stun slaughter to go. Something wasn’t right.

I was aware that stunning is not foolproof so searched the world wide web for data on failed first stuns. Failed first stuns can cause death and animals are or should be removed from the food chain. Dead animals do not bleed properly. These animals die needlessly. Other failed stuns do not knock animals out. They remain conscious with a stonking headache and will be restunned. This is clearly inhumane and is needless suffering.

How often does this occur?

I have seen figures of between 6% and 31%. I do not know what these figures mean but they are significant. Even one in one hundred (1in100) is significant. Non-stun slaughter is consistant. Deaths are rare and rapid unconsciousness is assured. Cutting the major blood vessels in the neck in one movement causes a catastrophic fall in blood pressure. There can be no awareness of pain in other than in the lowest level of unconsciousness/coma but how long does even a large animal remain in that state?

The problem for me is that neither the British Veterinary Association (@BritishVets) nor the RSPCA (@RSPCA_Official) hold data on failed first stuns. There is an assumption that the technology – a stun gun is technology – must be superior. This is a common failing in life sciences – especially in human medicine (the NHS).

I know that John Blackwell’s predecessor was challenged off-air after his Channel 5 appearance with Mohammed Ansar (@MoAnsar). He did not deny that there was an issue. The RSPCA asked to do its research. I will do so but at a cost to ensure they accept ownership of the conflicting data.

Needless to say John Blackwell provoked the inevitable anti-religious response from secularists who have no connection with their food production – it’s messy.

I had to throw my weight behind the no-stun advocates. I have been researching shechita (kosher) and dhabiha (halal) rules. They cover all aspects of animal welfare before slaughter and good hygiene after slaughter. It simply doesn’t make sense to knowingly make an animal suffer at death. On the contrary anyone trying to understand halal will know this.

I had to challenge the ban no-stun brigade. Most people just were closed to discussion but some were offensive. I know where Twitter’s ‘block’ button is.

I am not Muslim but apparently do a convincing job. Apparently I “get halal” and know more than “most Muslims”. Needless to say I have had a little experience of the “Islamophobia” denied by the “establishment” – that’s the church, the press, the BBC, even parliament. Coincidentally, a west country MP used a House of Commons debate on badger culling to make a gratuitous pop at Jews and Muslims, who support non-stun slaughter.

I am acutely aware of the nature of Islamophobia. It presents in many forms. It does not have to be hate and often arises from ignorance. In the context of slaughter it’s a failure to understand what’s involved. I learned something some livestock farmers stop caring for their animals when they leave the farm. In days past they may well have slaughtered their own animals on-farm. Now slaughter is out of sight and out of mind. The result is disinformation.