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Animal welfare

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Animals’ well-being

HALAL SLAUGHTER AND ANIMAL SUFFERING

Humane halal slaughter is supposed to reduce suffering. Halal System requires that people treat all leaving creatures with respect and that their life is protected and their well-being is ensured. Halal System imposes a total prohibition to expose animals to suffering, injury and pain (including mental harassment). Generally, animal slaughter is fully acceptable. It is a form of expressing gratitude to God for an animal that must be killed and sacrificed to people as food. To this end, the person performing the slaughter is obliged to say a prayer, a special supplication, looking at the animal. As a result, this person is a direct witness of its last breath and realizes the importance of slaughter.

The ritual slaughter itself is regulated by numerous principles, which have a double meaning, as it has already been said. An obligatory rule concerning animals is to avoid any actions causing pain. First of all, animals intended for slaughter cannot be exposed to any form of unnecessary stress. Slaughter should be performed as quickly and effectively as possible, preferably with one cut, to prevent long suffering. Moreover, the animals cannot stay in the room in which slaughter is performed. This is to prevent unnecessary stress.

Every stage, whether the drive, transport or stay of animals, must guarantee that they will be treated with due respect. Otherwise, the meat loses the halal status. Any form of beating, hurting or cutting is forbidden already at the stage of transport or waiting for slaughter. Other activities that can cause sudden stress or fear are also forbidden. In HS, an animal is killed with one cut with a very sharp knife, which cuts the trachea, the carotid artery and jugular vein. This means that an animal dies immediately.

In “normal” non-halal slaughterhouses, animals are sometimes treated with a painful (often electric) cattle prod and are stunned in an improper manner before the slaughter. To sum up, the stunning of animals before slaughter that causes pain (e.g. improper parameters of stunning tools) is not allowed.

If stunning is performed in order to minimize animals’ suffering, it is allowed but it should meet numerous requirements. In general, an animal should be stunned temporarily. What does it mean in practice? Stunning should not lead to death or permanent injuries of an animal being stunned. A stunning tool should not penetrate into the body or cause the fracture of the scull. If stunning is performed, it should allow for the restoration of vital functions of an animal once the effect of the stimulus stops. The opponents of religious slaughter (ritual, without stunning) present it as a bloody act of medieval barbarity.

As a result, many people are in favour of the view that it should be prohibited, without having a real idea not only about the essence of religious slaughter, but also about the principles of the so-called traditional slaughter, in which stunning is used. Some people think that the only alternative of slaughter without stunning is… letting an animal go, alive and well! Let us therefore remind that religious slaughter involves one cut with a sharp knife in order to incise carotid arteries and cause immediate loss of blood by an animal. It is the single cut and proper sharpness of the knife that minimize inevitable pain.

The animal loses its consciousness immediately, and no activities are performed until the cardiac arrest – that is until the actual death. Traditional slaughter, on the other hand, involves brutal and painful stunning, e.g. by electric shock with the use of electrodes placed on an animal’s head or the head and body, with a penetrating or non-penetrating bolt device, by causing the displacement of cervical vertebrae or hitting the head, poisoning with the carbon monoxide or carbon dioxide, or by electric shock in a water bath.

Then, the equally brutal slaughter is performed. As a result, an animal experiences maximum stress and pain twice. Stunning is not always fully effective – in such a case, half alive animals are dressed. This never happens in religious slaughter.

Animal welfare

Animal welfare is the well-being of animals. The standards of “good” animal welfare vary considerably between different contexts. These standards are under constant review and are debated, created and revised by animal welfare groups, legislators and academics worldwide. Animal welfare science uses various measures, such as longevity, disease, immunosuppression, behavior, physiology, and reproduction, although there is debate about which of these indicators provide the best information.

Concern for animal welfare is often based on the belief that non-human animals are sentient and that consideration should be given to their well-being or suffering, especially when they are under the care of humans. These concerns can include how animals are slaughtered for food, how they are used in scientific research, how they are kept (as pets, in zoos, farms, circuses, etc.), and how human activities affect the welfare and survival of wild species. There are many different approaches to describing and defining animal welfare.

Conditions provided by humans

Providing good animal welfare is sometimes defined by a list of positive conditions which should be provided to the animal. This approach is taken by the Five Freedoms and the three principles of Professor John Webster.

The Five Freedoms are :

– Freedom from thirst and hunger

– by ready access to fresh water and a diet to maintain full health and vigour

– Freedom from discomfort

– by providing an appropriate environment including shelter and a comfortable resting area

Freedom from pain, injury, and disease

– by prevention or rapid diagnosis and treatment

– Freedom to express most normal behavior

– by providing sufficient space, proper facilities, and company of the animal’s own kind

– Freedom from fear and distress

– by ensuring conditions and treatment which avoid mental suffering John Webster defines animal welfare by advocating three positive conditions: Living a natural life, being fit and healthy, and being happy.

Production by animals

In the past, farm animal welfare chiefly in terms of whether the animal is producing well. The argument is that an animal in poor welfare would not be producing well, however, many farmed animals will remain highly productive despite being in conditions where good welfare is almost certainly compromised, e.g., layer hens in battery cages.

Feelings of animals

Others in the field, such as Professor Ian Duncan and Professor Marian Dawkins, focus more on the feelings of the animal. This approach indicates the belief that animals should be considered as sentient beings. Duncan wrote, “Animal welfare is to do with the feelings experienced by animals:

the absence of strong negative feelings, usually called suffering, and (probably) the presence of positive feelings, usually called pleasure. In any assessment of welfare, it is these feelings that should be assessed.” Dawkins wrote, “Let us not mince words: Animal welfare involves the subjective feelings of animals.” Yew-Kwang Ng defines animal welfare in terms of welfare economics:

“Welfare biology is the study of living things and their environment with respect to their welfare (defined as net happiness, or enjoyment minus suffering). Despite difficulties of ascertaining and measuring welfare and relevancy to normative issues, welfare biology is a positive science.”

Dictionary definition

In the Saunders Comprehensive Veterinary Dictionary, animal welfare is defined as “the avoidance of abuse and exploitation of animals by humans by maintaining appropriate standards of accommodation, feeding and general care, the prevention and treatment of disease and the assurance of freedom from harassment, and unnecessary discomfort and pain.”

Veterinary profession

The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) has defined animal welfare as:

“An animal is in a good state of welfare if (as indicated by scientific evidence) it is healthy, comfortable, well nourished, safe, able to express innate behavior, and if it is not suffering from unpleasant states such as pain, fear, and distress.” They have offered the following eight principles for developing and evaluating animal welfare policies.

– The responsible use of animals for human purposes, such as companionship, food, fiber, recreation, work, education, exhibition, and research conducted for the benefit of both humans and animals, is consistent with the Veterinarian’s Oath.

– Decisions regarding animal care, use, and welfare shall be made by balancing scientific knowledge and professional judgment with consideration of ethical and societal values.

– Animals must be provided water, food, proper handling, health care, and an environment appropriate to their care and use, with thoughtful consideration for their species-typical biology and behavior.

– Animals should be cared for in ways that minimize fear, pain, stress, and suffering.

– Procedures related to animal housing, management, care, and use should be continuously evaluated, and          when indicated, refined or replaced.

– Conservation and management of animal populations should be humane, socially responsible, and                      scientifically prudent.

– Animals shall be treated with respect and dignity throughout their lives and, when necessary, provided a            humane death.

– The veterinary profession shall continually strive to improve animal health and welfare through scientific             research, education, collaboration, advocacy, and the development of legislation and regulations.

Environment

Terrestrial Animal Health Code of World Organisation for Animal Health defines animal welfare as “how an animal is coping with the conditions in which it lives. An animal is in a good state of welfare if (as indicated by scientific evidence) it is healthy, comfortable, well nourished, safe, able to express innate behaviour, and if it is not suffering from unpleasant states such as pain, fear, and distress. Good animal welfare requires disease prevention and veterinary treatment, appropriate shelter, management, nutrition, humane handling and humane slaughter/killing.

Animal welfare refers to the state of the animal; the treatment that an animal receives is covered by other terms such as animal care, animal husbandry, and humane treatment.” Coping Professor Donald Broom defines the welfare of an animal as “Its state as regards its attempts to cope with its environment. This state includes how much it is having to do to cope, the extent to which it is succeeding in or failing to cope, and its associated feelings.” He states that “welfare will vary over a continuum from very good to very poor and studies of welfare will be most effective if a wide range of measures is used.”John Webster criticized this definition for making “no attempt to say what constitutes good or bad welfare.” A major concern for the welfare of farm animals is factory farming in which large numbers of animals are reared in confinement at high stocking densities. Issues include the limited opportunities for natural behaviors, for example, in battery cages, veal and gestation crates, instead producing abnormal behaviors such as tail-biting, cannibalism, and feather pecking, and routine invasive procedures such as beak trimming, castration, and ear notching. More extensive methods of farming, e.g. free range, can also raise welfare concerns such as the mulesing of sheep, predation of stock by wild animals, and biosecurity. Farm animals are artificially selected for production parameters which sometimes impinge on the animals’ welfare.

For example, broiler chickens are bred to be very large to produce the greatest quantity of meat per animal. Broilers bred for fast growth have a high incidence of leg deformities because the large breast muscles cause distortions of the developing legs and pelvis, and the birds cannot support their increased body weight. As a consequence, they frequently become lame or suffer from broken legs. The increased body weight also puts a strain on their hearts and lungs, and ascites often develops. In the UK alone, up to 20 million broilers each year die from the stress of catching and transport before reaching the slaughterhouse.

The European Commission’s activities in this area start with the recognition that animals are sentient beings. The general aim is to ensure that animals do not endure avoidable pain or suffering, and obliges the owner/keeper of animals to respect minimum welfare requirements. European Union legislation regarding farm animal welfare is regularly re-drafted according to science-based evidence and cultural views. For example, in 2009, legislation was passed which aimed to reduce animal suffering during slaughter and on January 1, 2012, the European Union Council Directive 1999/74/EC came into act, which means that conventional battery cages for laying hens are now banned across the Union.

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