The question of stunning animals used for halal meat has become somewhat of buzzword amongst some UK Muslims. This is mainly due to poor communication from the relevant bodies on the differences in stunning techniques and what the shariah (and scholars of fiqh) actually say about the matter of stunning.
This short article outlines our approach to stunning.
In short, Abraham Natural Produce would rather all animals were slaughtered without stunning . However most abattoirs in the UK, unless purpose built for halal slaughter, use stunning on animals. Where we are based in the UK there are no Muslim abattoirs. We therefore have no option but to stun our lamb and goats as only animals processed through abattoirs can be sold for human consumption. The stun used on lamb and goats is a very low voltage that knocks the animal out for around 15-20 seconds. After 20 seconds it is back to normal and during that 20 seconds it is alive and breathing. This means that when the animal is cut it still bleeds the animal properly.
If any animal is stunned and as a consequence dies, it would be haram to eat. However the chances of this happening to a lamb, as opposed to a chicken, are extremely slim if not impossible. It is for this reason we would never allow our chickens to be stunned.
Before starting this company we researched the area of stunning and were confused by mixed messages. The popular belief that stunning rendered meat as haram did not actually correspond to what scholars have said. We therefore sought guidance from trusted scholars. They, in agreement with many others, concluded that the act of stunning does not make meat haram as long as the animal is alive and the rules of slaughter are adhered to.
The Halal Meat Authorities
Many people in the UK are now obsessed with the issue of stunning having been given the impression that it is haram. What has in truth happened is that some within certain UK halal meat authorities have taken a disliking to stunning and as a consequence people have been (mis)informed that it is totally haram. In fact, the meat is still halal – all it means is that businesses can not get that authority’s logo on their produce.
If one reads their literature or website carefully one will note that they do not term stunned meat as haram anywhere. What one finds is that they have implemented a “blanket policy” against stunning on the basis that there may be some doubt over whether or not an animal is alive at the time of slaughter. This shows that they agree that if a stunned animal is alive at the time of slaughter it is halal. However their arguments only really apply to chicken which may occasionally die due to stunning before slaughter. For lambs/goat however, they are always alive at time of slaughter which makes their policy somewhat inconsistent.
We asked one of these authorities, the Halal Monitoring Committee, for their response on this matter and they kindly responded with the following proving that just because an animal is stunned it is not haram:
“HMC is erring the side of caution by adopting a blanket policy to the issue of stunning and not certifying it. HMC has never claimed that all animals die due to stunning or that stunning the animal renders the animal Haram automatically.”
Some of the reasoning used by voices against stunning is based around the following ayat of the Quran:
“Forbidden to you (for food) are dead animal, blood, the flesh of swine, and that over which has been invoked other than the name of Allah, that which has been killed by strangling or by a violent blow or by a headlong fall or by being gored to death, that which has been partly eaten by a wild animal, unless you are able to slaughter (in due form), and that which is sacrificed on stone (altars).” (5:3)
The authorities argue that:
1) Research has shown that animals can and do die from stunning. If an animal dies because of stunning it is haram to eat. As we can’t be 100% sure that the animal was alive at the time of slaughter we should then avoid all stunned meat.
We are partly in agreement. However, as we work in an abattoir we know from first hand experience that it is impossible for a lamb to die from a low voltage stun. To apply one rule for chickens to a different animal is not correct. In addition, if we follow the logic that because an animal may “possibly die” before slaughter we should not eat it, then why do we not also apply that logic to the person slaughtering the animal? They “possibly” did not follow the correct procedures for the slaughtering in terms of carrying it out properly and as a result we should consider the meat as haram. In fact the chances of this happening are higher than an animal dying from stunning.
2) The ayah says, “forbidden to you is the blood to consume.” The halal authorities state that blood is dangerous if left inside the meat. Stunning can cause more blood to stay in the animal if the animal dies before being slaughtered.
Again, this is only applicable to an animal that dies before slaughter. It is not applicable to lamb/goat as they are alive with hearts pumping when slaughtered meaning the blood runs free from the animal just as it would if it were alive. Furthemore, there is independent research to suggest the bleeding of stunned animals is equal to those on un-stunned.
3) The ayah says, “and that which has been strangled.” Stunning a chicken by hanging it upside down and forcing its head in an electrified water bath causes strangulation. Therefore it is haram.
Again, this only applies to chicken. No lamb/goat, especially not in the abattoir we use, is ever hung upside down and dipped into electrified water nor strangled by any other means.
4) The ayah says, “and an animal killed by a violent blow”. This is compared to the act of stunning an animal and therefore invalidates it being halal.
Anyone who works in an abattoir will tell you that when you stun a lamb, there is absolutely no “blow” as this would make it impossible to stun it. The tongs must be carefully placed on the head otherwise they would not stay there.
Fatwa about Stunning
Some of the halal meat authorities have cited fatwa from scholars to support their stance that it is haram. Upon closer inspection however one finds that such fatwa are quoted out of context and not in full.
For example, one fatwa oft cited is that of Muhammad Usman, Darul-Ifta, Jamia Sarul Uloom, Karachi. His fatwa has been used to say that stunning is haram, whereas if one reads the fatwa in full you will see that he in fact does not say it is haram at all but in fact that it is completely halal. A few of his comments include:
“As for the ruling regarding the meat of an animal slaughtered in this way [meaning stunned], if the animal was definitely alive at the time of slaughter, and was slaughtered correctly, it would be considered Halal.”
“It is not correct to check some animals and deduce from this that the rest were also alive. In such a situation the meat of those animals about which it is known with certainty or beyond reasonable doubt that they were alive at the time of slaughter, and they were correctly slaughtered , will be considered Halal. And the meat of those animals about which it is known (or there is a strong possibility) that they were dead at the time of slaughter, or those animals about which it is not possible to ascertain if they were dead or alive at the time of slaughter, will not be considered Halal, and it is not permissible to use such meat.”
“The jurists have mentioned many signs that can be taken as proof of an animal being alive at the time of slaughter, for example if the animal bleeds at the time of slaughter like a living animal, or closes its mouth or eyes, or pulls together its legs, or shows any kind of movement, etc. Therefore, if the fact that the animal was alive can be established in any way, it will be permissible to slaughter it, and its meat will be considered Halal. The observation of movement in the animal, or establishing the fact that a pulse exists is sufficient to prove an animal alive.”
For more legal opinions from scholars please read Fatwa on Stunning Animals.
As mentioned above, in an ideal world stunning would not be used. However the act of stunning according to the principles of fiqh (jurisprudence) are not seen as rendering any meat haram as long as the animal is treated well, alive at the time of slaughter and all other necessary actions and conditions are carried out properly. This is the position adopted by the majority of scholars including the late Zaki Badawi and one adopted by the Halal Food Authority.
As a result all our meat is 100% halal – this is indisputable for the simple reason that we know that every animal slaughtered is alive at the time of slaughter.
In addition to being halal our meat has the extra benefits that it is tayyib – it has been ethically treated, free of injected hormones and alien bodies, grazed on organic grass and slaughtered by someone who takes the act seriously and conducts it according to the shariah.
Allah knows best.