There are calls today, so we’re told, for clearer packaging of meat that is being sold in the UK. Apparently supermarket shelves may be carrying meat which has been produced to halal standards without labeling it as such.
The production of either halal or kosher meat requires, amongst other strictures, the animal to be uninjured at the moment it is killed. In the case of kosher meat, stunning is expressly forbidden. In the case of halal meat there are some interpretations which allow stunning before slaughter.
Some entire industries and operations are, inevitably, producing all their meat to halal standards. This makes good economic sense: kill them all in the same way maximising efficiency whilst producing for the broadest possible consumer base. According to reports New Zealand lamb is being produced this way and so is chicken for Pizza Express.
Both sides, in terms, are calling for proper labelling. Those who want kosher and halal meat presumably want to be sure they’re buying the right product and to be aware that they may have a wider choice available to them. Those who believe that for humane reasons animals should be stunned before they are killed want proper labelling so they can avoid buying meat which has been produced in a unnecessarily cruel way.
How on earth do we get ourselves into these positions, blowing up a microscopic part of a big picture and treating it like the heart of the matter?
I can’t bring myself to suggest that this is an orchestrated use of mass media to engage the populace in a distracting argument. I think it’s something more inherent in the human psyche. We’re so naturally terrified of the big picture, whether it’s climate change, inequality, war or the fact that we’re all going to die, that we bury our heads in one or two choice details that we think we can exert some grip on and control over.
Let’s be very clear here. Whichever way you look at it, we are using industrial processes to slaughter hundreds of billions of animals each year (http://www.adaptt.org/killcounter.html). Some of them get stunned a few seconds before they are killed, and for them that is some very, very small concession towards mercy.
Whether you say a magic spell over them or sprinkle them with fairy dust whilst you kill them the end result is the same.
Arguing in technical terms about which process is best/safest/most humane is a grotesque distraction and in its own way just another part of the mental block that most people put around themselves and the pink shrink-wrapped blobs they put in their shopping trolleys.
Perversely, Shechita UK, spokespeople for the kosher method of slaughter, are calling for labels which offer full disclosure of whether an animal was stunned before slaughter, whether it had to be repeatedly stunned if first attempts were ineffective along with details of the method of slaughter. Quote: “captive bolt shooting, gassing, electrocution, drowning, trapping, clubbing or any of the other approved methods.”
That sounds like a great idea to me. There are some truths that we should be forced to confront every time we try to ignore them.