So “halal” means “inhumane”?

OK, readers, you torture me. Yesterday I’m sent Joe Rogan, today I wake up to a horrific video of cattle being slaughtered. I have no illusions that slaughterhouses in the prosperous West are not horrible — but at least there are laws that if, for instance, if a cow falls down, you don’t get to have “fun” stabbing it in the eyes with a knife.

That’s a hint. Don’t watch the video if you’re at all squeamish.


  1. Charles Knutson says

    Aren’t there also people who argue against kosher slaughtering methods as being cruel?

  2. DaveH says

    Generally, yes.

    While modern meat-processing methods are not pleasant for most people, they generally are pretty humane, barring the occasional screwed up factory not following the rules, or not training its people properly. Sadistic workers also are a problem, which sounds like the cow problem above.

    People are shocked when the see videos of a cow getting a bolt gun to the head, because that animal just drops all of a sudden. But from a humane point of view, that meant it went out instantly, with very little suffering.

    Halal practices are actually very good guidelines for keeping food safe, if you are looking at them from the time they were written. Modern technology and understanding has marched on, and religion, as always, has dug in its heels.

  3. ekwhite says

    Charles Knutsen @1

    From my understanding, kosher and halal slaughter methods are pretty much the same.

  4. Bicarbonate says

    Right Quinn @ 5, not a halal slaughter but probably not against Sharia law either, seeing as it’s a festival in Gaza, but you never know. Reminds me of human beheading videos from Syria. The video is not in any case grounds for evaluating the humanity or inhumanity of halal slaughter.

  5. dthunt says

    I wouldn’t take these videos as being representative of Halal best practices.

    I’ve also seen a Halal slaughter video where the animals appeared to be in a minimum of distress. I mean, they are still dying, but are taken to the slaughtergrounds peacefully, made to lie down without force, and the cut is made by someone who clearly knows what he is doing, and the animals don’t attempt to get up. They certainly still experience pain and distress.

    So, it’s obviously still somewhat horrible.

    But, you know. None of that staggering around and banging heads into walls, ten minutes of gasps and painful noises, and other heart-wrenching images that come out of factory slaughterhouses.

    I think slaughter in general is terrible. I don’t know that Halal practices are any worse than other practices in place, when it’s done expertly.

  6. DaveH says


    You are picking some of the best examples of halal, and some of the worst examples of modern practices. I have seen properly done modern slaughterhouse practices, in those, the animal barely realizes the human is doing something around its head before it is dead, or at least unconscious.

    I admit there are far too many examples of people messing up best practices in both categories, halal and modern, but if you are going to compare the two, compare best practices in each.

  7. mnb0 says

    “if a cow falls down, you don’t get to have “fun” stabbing it in the eyes with a knife.”
    Halal does not mean stabbing a cow in the eyes with a knife. It means slitting her throat and let it bleed empty. I’ve witnessed it once; it was over quickly and nobody had “fun”.
    Before getting slaughtered the cow had a good life in a meadow. That’s way too often not the case with “best cases of slaughtering in a slaughterhouse”. In general criticizing ritual slaughter is OK if a veggie like PZ does it, but not so much for the average Joe and Jane with their stakes on their plates.

  8. DaveH says


    Before getting slaughtered the cow had a good life in a meadow.

    As far as I know, there is no requirement that halal (translation: “permissible”, compared with “haraam”, which is “forbidden”) meat be sourced from non-feed lot, etc. farms. To be halal, it must not be forbidden food (ex: pork), and slaughtered according to Islamic law, the actual word for which (per wiki) is “dhabihah”. If I am wrong, I stand corrected, but it was my understanding that a lot of halal meat suppliers in the west buy the cattle from standard feed lots, but then slaughter them according to dhabihah.

    For the record, I am a meat-eater, but I grew up in the country, and we always bought our beef from the farmer down the road, once or twice a year. I remember going with my mother, since she wanted to point out to me where my food came from, and her pointing at a cow and saying “half of that one”. Off it went to the butcher, and the farmer showed up a couple days later with a couple coolers full of meat. I try to replicate this purchasing pattern when I can now, though I admit it is not always possible.

  9. Thumper: Token Breeder says


    This is just so much bullshit. As DaveH correctly says, Halaal means “permissible”, and it just means anything not contradictory to Islamic law. It does not just apply to food, although that is the context you will most often hear it in. In order to be Halaal, the animal must not be one of the long list of forbidden ones (obviously), and must be killed using one stroke of a sharp knife, which cuts both the jugular veins and corotid arteries and the wind pipe, without damaging the spine or spinal cord; and you must pray to Allah while performing the act. This method is indeed called dhabihah, the conditions for which are laid out in Surah 5 of the Qur’an. And there is absolutely no requirement that any animal killed by this method be free range.

  10. DaveH says

    I will note at this point I avoid halaal meat. If a kebab place, etc. advertises their food as “halaal”, I usually skip it and move on. While dhabihah is a relatively humane method by pre-industrial standards, it is not by modern ones.

  11. Thumper: Token Breeder says

    Slight clarification to my #14: Surah 5 doesn’t actually lay out the conditions for Dabihah; it lists all of the ways animals you eat can not be killed, and Dabihah is the method at which Muslims have arrived which satisfies all the requirements.

    The corpse must also be hung up and drained afterwards, since Muslims, like Jews, can’t consume blood.

  12. Thumper: Token Breeder says


    For the same reasons, I avoid Halaal if I have a choice. Also Kosher. I don’t have as much knowledge on Kosher, but I believe the method is similar. If anyone can weigh in on that topic it would be much appreciated.

  13. zenlike says

    Thumper @18

    Also Kosher. I don’t have as much knowledge on Kosher, but I believe the method is similar.

    As far as I know, they are -fora ll purposes- the same, only the religious mumbling is done in another language.

    Also, as stated above by multiple others, the video in the OP has nothing whatsoever to do with halal slaughter methods.

  14. betelgeux says

    My plan was to force myself to watch the whole thing, so I would be truly aware of the suffering these cows had to endure. But I had to stop after about two minutes. Fuck…just Fuck.

  15. randay says

    Dave #10, what does “properly done” mean? Here is an example of industrial hala, Meet Your Meatl:

    Halal is just a borrowing from, or copying of kosher. They are the same. “Kosher” short for “Kos shyour torturing”. But what do you expect from two groups that mutilate the genitals of baby boys?

    Unfortunately, often halal meat is overproduced so it is sold as regular meat. You can’t always be sure you are avoiding it unless you go to a trusted local butcher, not the supermarket. It is also used in frozen or canned prepared meat meals.

  16. says

    I want to know where the fuck the idea comes from that halal and western slaughtering methods are mutually exclusive. if you’re somewhere in the west and you eat halal meat, it will simply have been slaughtered according to both requirements. Certainly I’m not aware that such a thing as “religious exemptions” to food safety and animal treatment regulations exist. That means where law requires stunning for slaughter, halal meat will have been stunned before slaughter. no eye-stabbing “for fun”. NZ for example mostly doesn’t, AFAICT, bother with two separate slaughtering methods, and the only difference comes from post-slaughter treatment. Hence the freakout by Daily Mail readers about “secret” halal.

    So yeah… if you avoid “halal” labels in the west, you’re not avoiding anything more horrible than the non-halal stuff; a lot of which was killed the same way as the stuff with the label, anyway.

  17. says

    example of what I’m talking about:

    In New Zealand, all commercial slaughter of livestock, including religious slaughter, must be undertaken in a humane manner in accordance with New Zealand’s animal welfare laws. These laws require animals to be ‘stunned’ immediately prior to slaughter. Stunning ensures an immediate loss of consciousness to prevent animals from feeling any pain during the slaughter process


  18. Thumper: Token Breeder says


    Thanks. I did a bit of research after logging off yesterday, and you are exactly right. The Jewish method is called Shechita, and has some seriously bizarre sub-rules.


    “Certainly I’m not aware that such a thing as “religious exemptions” to food safety and animal treatment regulations exist.. That means where law requires stunning for slaughter, halal meat will have been stunned before slaughter.”

    Actually, in the UK they do have an exemption. Both Dabihah and Shechita methods say that the animal must be alive before it is slaughtered. Conventional opinion in both the Muslim and Jewish faiths hold that a stunned animal is not fully alive.

  19. randay says

    If Jadehawk had watched the video I posted, he/she would have seen that Belgium has an exception for traditional ritual slaughter. That is exactly the point of their video and why they want it stopped. Furthermore, he repeats much of what I had already said.

  20. DaveH says

    Properly done = following established best practice. As I previously stated, comparing halaal best practice to non-best practice modern slaughter methods is disingenuous. Furthermore, as Thumper has said, there are religious exemptions to the laws mandating stunning in most jurisdictions.

    Second, the word kosher isn’t short for anything: “from the Ashkenazi pronunciation of the Hebrew term kashér (כָּשֵׁר)” (wiki, which isn’t perfect, but makes a good starting point, yada yada, as we have all said before). Let alone does the word in anyway derive from the word “torturing”. If we are going to have a discussion, we should have it on the facts.

  21. Thumper: Token Breeder says

    They are the same. “Kosher” short for “Kos shyour torturing”.

    How on earth did I miss this gem? I hope you are trying to be funny here randay, because if you genuinely think that a long-established Ashkenazim (i.e. Germanic Jews) word is some sort of portmanteau of two Hebrew words and one English word then I seriously have to question your ability to think critically.

    It actually comes from the Ashkenazim pronunciation of Kasher, which is Hebrew for “fit”, as in “fit to eat”.

  22. randay says

    Thumper #28, Yeah, “fit to eat if you torture it the right way”. Well I suppose I should just forget that I was writing in English.

    David Marjanovic #29, en français on écrit “kasher”. “Cacher” est une orthographie alternative. Lisez votre Larousse ou Pétit Robert.

    Dave H # 27, you don’t have a clue about my sarcasm. Only a fool would take what I wrote literally.

  23. Thumper: Token Breeder says

    “fit to eat if you torture it the right way”.

    No. Just “fit to eat”. Both Dhabihah and Shechit specify that the animal must be treated with “with respect and compassion”. I personally disagree with it because I think modern methods, particularly stunning, accomplish the job far more humanely, but to call it “torture” is downright stupid.

  24. randay says

    No, halal and kosher is like pre-psychotic kids that torture cats, dogs, and other small animals. Based on what? Based only on the mythology of ancient books. It is downright stupid to believe anything in those books.

  25. DaveH says


    Yes, it is stupid. But… most people who do believe them are actually decent human beings in spite of that. All major religions have some sort of “be nice” clause, as society doesn’t really work if your try to be dick to everyone. How they treat their non-neighbours (out group) is a different story.

    Halaal and kosher both have clauses about treating the animal “with compassion and respect”, provided you are following all of the other rules (i.e. you are factually wrong about that one). Some of those rules are arbitrary and silly, but people accept those rules as fundamental facts, and then within those blinders try to follow their basic human decency. The vast, vast majority of religious people are not sadistic idiots like you try to portray them, they are products of the society they were raised in, which for many people is still infused with religiosity.

    Dhabihah and Shechit are actually pretty decent guidelines for slaughtering animals, given the time they came from. It is only as society and technology have marched on that they have become superseded by more human methods. But since they were expressed as religious laws rather than “you slit the throat to cause rapid exsanguination, and thus relatively quick (i.e. humane) death”, people stick to them, even if there is now better ways.

    Basing your criticism of religion on fundamental misunderstandings and misrepresentations doesn’t you or anybody else anywhere.

  26. DaveH says

    Correction, I should have also replaced the first mention of “Halaal and kosher” with “Dhabihah and Shechit” as well, but along with the other minor spelling mistake or two, I didn’t notice them in my once over.

  27. Thumper: Token Breeder says


    No, halal and kosher is like pre-psychotic kids that torture cats, dogs, and other small animals. Based on what? Based only on the mythology of ancient books. It is downright stupid to believe anything in those books.

    For fuck sake, stop redefining words. The definition of torture is not “to kill something as quickly as possible with the technology available”. Nor is it “to cling desperately on to traditional slaughter methods when better and kinder ones exist today”. And actually neither Shechita or Dhabihah are based on what’s “written in the books”. Shechita is based entirely on oral tradition, and Dhabihah is copied from that and the situations which it hopes to avoid laid down in the Qur’an. Which you’d know if you had the first idea what you were talking about.

    And no, it is not “downright stupid to believe anything in those books”. It is downright stupid to believe anything in those books unthinkingly and uncritically. The Golden Rule is contained within those books and that’s a fantastic idea.

    Both Shechita and Dhabihah were excellent guidelines for the humane slaughter of animals and the avoidance of diseased meat for the time in which they were invented. Nowdays better methods exist, because technology and understanding have improved. The problem lies in them stubbornly clinging to tradition when better methods exist. The issue, as so often with religion and the religious, is that they are sticking rigidly to the rules rather than taking the spirit in which the rules were written and finding better ways to satisfy that spirit. But to accuse them of torture is ludicrously hyperbolic and entirely illogical.

  28. randay says

    The Golden Rule goes back to Confucius at least and is found in almost all ethical traditions. It has nothing to do with slaughtering animals. Muslims and Jews who continue their barbaric practices in spite of the fact they know there are better ways do so because their imaginary friend in the beyond. They are superstitious torturing assholes. Their oral or written traditions are bullshit. Why do they still mutilate baby boys’ genitals? Because of their poisonous religions.

  29. charlessoto says

    This post is silly. Yes, there are always assholes who do “inhumane” things. There are also many who do their job poorly. And that’s what animal slaughter is – a job. Most of the systems designed around slaughter have one design goal first and foremost – minimize time and effort in order to maximize profit. Most modern slaughter is so assembly line efficient that it’s almost robotic. Slaughterhouse employees don’t want to “play” with their “victims.” They just want to process it and move on so they can go home and watch PBS or whatever. There are always exceptions, and if the foreman or owner of a slaughterhouse catches you being an inhumane asshole, you’ll get shitcanned. It hurts the bottom line, which hurts their livelihoods.