ETHICS

Halal Slaughter Debunking Veganism?

Halal Slaughter Debunking Veganism

The memory is still very vivid in my mind, that bright morning on Eid Al-Adha. I must’ve been around 14 years old at the time when I woke up rather optimistically and made my way to the back yard to greet my family. My wide smile turned to a jaw drop when I was, instead, greeted with the head of a goat sitting in a pool of blood. The bright eyes of the goat staring directly at me with the tongue sticking out. I was completely and utterly horrified. I had realized what had happened; the goat was slaughtered earlier that day and would become our lunch later during the day. That bright day suddenly turned gloomy as I spent it grieving and crying as I came face to face with the realities of what was on my plate. I refused to eat meat that day, but I was constantly reassured by my family that this goat had lived a happy and fulfilling life and had been slaughtered the ‘halal’ way. I didn’t exactly know what that meant, but it was enough to convince me to resume eating meat a few days later. The thought was buried in the back of my mind, and it wasn’t until a few years later when I was 18 years old that I revisited the concept of halal slaughter when I was introduced to veganism and it’s counter arguments. I spent months, conflicted and bothered about where Islam stood on all of this as I researched here and there. You can thank me later for saving you the trouble of looking wide and far and present you with my findings:

To begin, we need to look into the word ‘halal’ itself. The word has unfortunately been reduced to nothing but a label, plastered on everything from food to shampoo bottles, in order to increase sales and make the product more desirable to a certain population. However, what does the word actually mean?

Halal means permissible. Something that is permissible is something that is allowed. So, yes, in Islam, you are ‘allowed’ to consume the flesh of animals. But before you turn away thinking you’ve reached the conclusion, the story gets a little more complex from here. Turns out, in order for meat to become halal/permissible for consumption, it must follow strict regulations. These regulations include that the animals must not be subjected to pain and suffering at any point in their lives, from birth till death. Factory farms, nowadays, are the farthest thing imaginable from humane living conditions. The animals are swamped, crowded and stressed, living in their own feces with sadistic and cruel acts performed on them on a daily basis. They are seen as nothing but products by the industry, and are treated as such. These living, sentient beings see and experience cruelty every single moment of their miserable lives. Is that ‘allowed’ by Islam? Of course not.

What people tend to focus on with the concept of halal, however, is the act of slaughter itself.

Under halal regulations, the animal must not sense that death is pending, which means that the animal must not see or hear another animal being slaughtered, or even smell the running blood of another slaughtered animal. These regulations are almost exclusively never followed. In modern slaughterhouses, the animals watch each other get slaughtered one by one, falling into panic and even more distress moments before they meet the same fate as their friends. Or they hear the screams through thin walls and feel the blood filling the floor beneath them. Additionally, the animals are to be well fed and given enough water, soothed, turned towards the direction of the Qibla and the word of God read onto them. The knife used must be sharp and the movement of the slitting of the throat be rapid and uninterrupted so as to cut the carotid artery (and at times the jugular vein) of the animal so as to cause immediate loss of consciousness, as the animal ultimately bleeds to death. These regulations are not my opinion, nor am I excusing any action, I am merely stating the regulations of halal slaughter. The conclusion, though, is that these regulations are not followed by modern slaughterhouses either. A stereo is usually blasted with Quran as the animals are wheeled in one by one, their throats slit with rugged machinery with no regard to any artery or vein. The animals end up screaming, crying and battling for life for excruciatingly painful minutes on end. They even arrive at the slaughterhouses hungry and thirsty, having usually been neglected for days making the trip to their final destination. It would never be profitable for the industry to perform all these regulations (and more) on all of the animals presented for slaughter. Furthermore, the act of stunning an animal has become very widespread in halal slaughterhouses, despite the controversy concerning this practice with several religious scholars outright banning it and calling the act of stunning the animals against halal practices. In 2014, about 85% of halal meat produced by the Muslim community in the United Kingdom was pre-stunned. And in relation to our country, Lebanon, there has been a host of surfacing [verified] footage of animals being stunned before slaughter. Are we not seeing a trend here? The industry does not care about the regulations or about the wellbeing of the animals nor the religious teachings or even our health. The industry cares about nothing but profit, and hiding the insanely absurd and inhumane practices that happen inside factory farms and slaughterhouses has been their best tactic to keep people in the dark.

But this springs up the question – what about meat that has come from some miraculous animal that has never been tortured at any point in their life? Would that be religiously ‘permissible’ to consume? To answer that we look into the topic at hand accordingly:

According to Islam, there are several regulations that are very clearly mentioned in the Quran or through the life and quotes (hadiths) of the prophet that are nonnegotiable. Of these are three things that are forbidden: inflicting harm on your own body, inflicting unnecessary harm onto others, and the maintenance of the prosperity of the land around you/Earth.

To further dissect this, let us examine each point individually:

To begin, we are not allowed to inflict harm on our bodies; we are responsible for our deeds and decisions and we must act responsibly and in accordance with the word of God. According to the Quran, Surah al-Baqarah [2:195]: “Let not your own hands contribute to your destruction.” Additionally, as mentioned in Surah an-Nisa [4:29]: “And do not kill yourselves.” Furthermore, according to the Prophet Mohammed (peace be upon him): “Your Lord has a right on you and your soul has a right on you; so you should give the rights of all those who has a right on you.” It thus becomes clear that anything that causes harm on your body should be avoided. In light of this conclusion, it is appropriate to mention that animal products are the leading cause of the most destructive, the most fatal and the most widespread diseases out there; such as cancer, diabetes, heart disease… etc. We now consume animal products like never before, and the prevalence of such diseases (and many, many more) has sky rocketed simply because of our nasty diets. New and recent research is continuously emerging to back up the claim that animal products are the main causes of these diseases, and that by cutting out animal products, we are marginally healthier and better able to avoid such health hazards.

Further, we are not to inflict any unnecessary harm to other beings. According to the word of Prophet Mohammed (pbuh):

“Allah will not give mercy to anyone, except those who give mercy to other creatures.” And as mentioned in another hadith, “A good deed done to an animal is as good as a good deed done to a human being, while an act of cruelty to an animal is as bad as an act of cruelty done to a human being.” Additionally, in yet another hadith, “He who takes pity {even} on a sparrow and spares its life, Allah will be merciful on him on the Day of Judgment.” The Prophet (pbuh) further mentions, “Fear Allah in your treatment of these animals who cannot speak.” And also, “Whoever is kind to the creatures of God is kind to himself.” And anoher hadith states that: “May the curse of Allah be on the one who treats an animal harshly.” While the Quran backs this up in Surah Al-An’am [6:38] where equality amongst all of God’s creatures is stated as: “There is not an animal that lives on the earth, nor a being that flies on its wings, that doesn’t form communities like you. They all shall be gathered to their Lord in the end.” Thus, the idea of not inflicting harm onto others is a unanimous, nonnegotiable command that aligns with the core of the religion of peace. Yet, the production of animal products is dependent, as a whole, on torture, enslavement, suffering, murder and massacre and many more heinous crimes. All that viciousness for what? Lunch? A snack? It is all avoidable pain being inflicted on other beings that we are commanded to protect. Animal products are even easily avoidable as we now have the alternatives.

And finally, we are to maintain the prosperity of the land around us and must not destroy it.

According to Surah Ar-Rum [30:41]: “Corruption doth appear on land and sea because of (the evil) which men’s hands have done, that He may make them taste a part of that which they have done, in order that they may return.” And in an interpretation of that verse, it is said that “God is giving us a taste of our own medicine so that we may return from the wrong directions we have taken in life. If we are to reverse the deterioration of our environment then we have to make some hard choices and change our practices. In other words, ecological change calls for personal change.” And as mentioned in Surah Al-A’raf [7:56]: “Do not mischief on the earth, after it hath been set in order.” Furthermore, as mentioned in Surah Yunus [10:14]: “We appointed you viceroys in the earth after them, that We might see how ye behave.” And Prophet Mohammed (pbuh) even spoke of this saying “The Earth is green and beautiful, and Allah has appointed you stewards over it. The whole earth has been created a place of worship, pure and clean. Whoever plants a tree and diligently looks after it until it matures and bears fruit is rewarded. If a Muslim plats a tree or sows a field and humans and beasts and birds eat from it, all of it is love on his part.” There are even further mentions of this concept by the Caliphs, as Hazrat Ali ibn Abi-Taleb (RA) has said “Partake of it gladly so as long as you are the benefactor, not a despoiler; a cultivator, not a destroyer. All human beings as well as animals and wildlife enjoy the right to share Earth’s resources. Man’s abuse of any resources is prohibited as the juristic principle says ‘What leads to the prohibited is itself prohibited’ “. And thus, we see that we, humans, have been given this great responsibility of maintaining the Earth and that we must carry out this trust. However, where does the consumption of animal products stand in the midst of all this? Well, animal agriculture is the absolute leading cause of the ever so destructive climate change, soil erosion, habitat loss and species extinction, ocean dead zones and air and water pollution. By consuming animal products we are very clearly supporting the very actions that are single handedly destroying every corner of our earth. The UN have recently published a study in which every diet was examined in its effect of reducing climate change, and a vegan diet has emerged as the only solution and the single best way to reduce your carbon footprint.

And so, briefly speaking, while consuming the flesh of animals is permissible (under strict regulations that are almost never followed), the infliction of harm on your own body, the environment/Earth, and on other beings is absolutely forbidden. And in our modern times, the consumption of animal products is the leading cause of some of the most prevalent diseases, is the leading cause of climate change, and is the leading cause for the unnecessary suffering of billions upon billions of both humans and animals together. Under this circumstance (which happens to be reality), I do not find it appropriate, moral, or ethical to consume animal products, and I am certain that Islam backs up this viewpoint.

Historically speaking, the Muslims ate very very little meat, as the consumption of meat itself is not and never was a religious obligation. Furthermore, the strict conditions laid out in Islam concerning the handling of animals, raising them and methods of transporting them and slaughtering them are far from met. And so, with Islam being a faith of reason and relevancy for all times, it is only logical that we apply the word of God for our current situations. And ask yourself – would the prophet Mohammed (pbuh) consume animal products had he been living in the twenty-first century?

Bonus information:

As seen on islamicity.org, anyone handling and dealing with animals should follow the following guidelines laid by the Prophet (pbuh)

  1. Provide appropriate food and fresh water
  2. Provide a safe and comfortable shelter
  3. Separate them from aggressive behaviors of each other
  4. Allow males and females to mate during mating seasons
  5. Not to harvest them for food faster than their ability to breed
  6. Not to overburden them
  7. Not to neglect them, especially in sickness and advanced age

As established already, the reality is that the absolute opposite is what actually happens.

REFERENCES:

https://muslimmemo.com/self-flagellation-muharram-islam/

https://www.gov.uk/guidance/halal-and-kosher-slaughter

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Legal_aspects_of_ritual_slaughter#Scope_of_regulations

https://www.carnismdebunked.com/your-religion

https://www.al-islam.org/mizan-al-hikmah-scale-wisdom/animals

Medical Audiology student at American University of Beirut, animal rights activist and avid traveler.