Stunning animals does not affect blood loss

Many countries adopt the policy of stunning cattle before killing them as it is supposedly more humane. But Muslims and Jews have religious prohibitions against consuming the blood of animals and so they oppose stunning and instead require that in order for the food to be certified as kosher or halal, that the animals must not be stunned and their blood must run freely when killed, presumable to drain the meat of all blood.

The idea that animals lose all their blood even when slaughtered this way does not make sense but scientists have tested this idea and find that stunning does not affect the amount of blood lost.

Of course, this is not going to change the minds of orthodox religious believers. They will insist on doing things the same way that their ancient ancestors prescribed, modern science and knowledge be damned. All that will change in the light of new evidence are their reasons for maintaining the practice.


  1. Dunc says

    Actually, the halal position on stunning is generally much less strict. According to the RSPCA, “74 per cent of Halal slaughter or cattle, 93 per cent of Halal slaughter of small ruminants, and 100 per cent of Halal slaughter of poultry in the UK involved pre-stunning.”

  2. drken says

    The idea is that stunning causes a bruise, which is clump of clotted blood (more or less). Under strict kosher rules, any bruise makes the entire animal trayf (unclean), not just the bruised part, which means you can’t just cut out a bruise and have the remaining steak be kosher (your milage might vary depending on how strict your rabbi is). So, by intentionally causing a bruise, you’re making the entire animal trayf regardless of how much blood this prevents from being bled out. Also, there is no assumption of complete draining by kosher slaughter as the meat also has to be salted, soaked in water, then drained to remove any remaining blood.

  3. Katydid says

    Awhile back, I got one of those many-forwarded emails about “OMG, Muslims are eeeeebul because the way they slaughter their animals is CRUEL!”. I replied back to the entire list pointing out that hte only difference between Kosher and Halal slaughter is the mumbo-jumbo spouted over the animal’s corpse. OOOOH, the drama that caused!

  4. Paulo Borges says

    Most of the problems arise from the fact that people believe that the animal is killed by the electric shock, gas or trauma. I guess that there is a hint in the use of the verb to stun instead verb to kill/slaughter but people don’t get it or don’t want to get it.

  5. krambc says

    The similarities in rules governing kosher-halal, circumcision rituals and haberdashery are among the reasons I prefer to label these traditions as Judeo-Islamic; there is greater cultural and linguistic continuity with torah-sharia than with hellenized Christianity.

    As Tim Minchin points out in his peace anthem for Palestine :

    Then again, apparently pharoanic Egyptians thought eating pig caused leprosy:

    “Were it not for their aversion to pigs, the Egyptians would probably have invented ham, for they salt-cured meat and knew how to domesticate the pig. But Egyptian religious leadership pronounced pigs carriers of leprosy, made pig farmers social outcasts, and never depicted the animal on the walls of tombs.”
    Salt: A World History by Mark Kurlansky

  6. Dunc says

    I replied back to the entire list pointing out that hte only difference between Kosher and Halal slaughter is the mumbo-jumbo spouted over the animal’s corpse.

    As the RSPCA point out in the link I supplied in my first comment, that’s not actually true (in the UK). The majority of animals slaughtered according to Halal rules in the UK are pre-stunned. It’s only Shechita (kosher) slaughter that absolutely forbids pre-stunning.

  7. doublereed says

    The whole point of kosher and halal slaughter is humane killing. You’re not supposed to bruise them or beat then, but kill them quickly and cleanly.

    This is a case of religious orthodoxy following the letter of the law rather than the spirit of it.

  8. doublereed says

    Although I’ve heard arguments that stunning just paralyzes the animals and it doesn’t actually stop the pain. It may just *look* more humane.

  9. lorn says

    Having had major blood vessels cut, and almost dying, I can say that it wasn’t painful. A bit of a sting, a whole lot of blood gushing and squirting, and then a relatively painless but difficult fight to stay conscious as my whole body was telling me to lay down and rest. If you stop the flow before you run out of blood you live. I got lucky.

    Based upon that experience I don’t see the point of stunning or not stunning. Are we really limiting suffering or assuaging our own conscious. If we are going to kill to eat it is better that we limit suffering. It is a reasonable concern but I have my doubts about the advantages of stunning.

  10. Holms says

    lorn, I suspect your near-exsanguination was *not* from having your throat slit, but something much less drastic and therefore less painful.

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