Peace and Compassion for Animals in Islam: Is Halal Slaughter Kind?

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3 min read

Is halal slaughter kind? At a time when acts of violence seem to fill the pages of newspapers, we must take individual responsibility for embodying the change we wish to see in the world. When we hear of injustice or cruelty perpetrated against others, let’s look inward, examine our own behavior, and commit to a nonviolent approach in our own lives.

Everyone—including Muslims—can put the philosophy of nonviolence into practice by choosing to be vegan, sparing countless animals extreme suffering and a painful death. Killing other sentient beings, whose lives are as dear to them as ours are to us, and feeding on their flesh goes against the fundamental Islamic tenets of peace, dignity, respect, tolerance, justice, and mercy. We can help make the world a less violent, more compassionate place by refusing to use animals for food.

Take a moment to think about how meat ends up in restaurants and kitchens around the globe: After a short life of intense confinement, most farmed animals are forced to endure a grueling journey to the slaughterhouse. It’s no wonder that there are numerous accounts of animals’ desperate attempts to escape from the vehicles transporting them to their death. Prior to slaughter, many must witness the horrifying deaths of those ahead of them, smell their blood, and hear their terrified cries. By contrast, the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) was the embodiment of mercy and had compassion for all sentient beings. He taught his followers to treat animals with respect, kindness, and mercy, because they, too, are God’s creation.

child with lamb

Did you know that if the Prophet saw any malnourished animals, he would say to the owner, “Fear God in your treatment of animals”? He did not tolerate behavior that caused pain and suffering, and he made it known that those who hurt animals must answer to God for their actions.

Every single aspect of the breeding, farming, and killing of sensitive and intelligent beings goes against the basic Islamic principles of compassion and reverence for life. Under halal law, animals are supposed to be killed quickly with a single cut from a surgically sharp knife, but eyewitness investigations into halal slaughterhouses have revealed immense animal suffering. Following a federal report documenting that an employee at Dillsburg Halal Meat in Pennsylvania kicked a hoisted, dying lamb whose throat had been slashed “very hard in the nose” and laughed when a federal official said that the action was unacceptable, PETA fired off a letter to the company’s owner, asking him to report the worker to local law-enforcement officials and permanently reassign him to a position that wouldn’t involve having contact with live animals.

Footage from hidden cameras at the Bowood Yorkshire Lamb halal slaughterhouse in England showed workers stomping on, kicking, and shouting at sheep. They were also caught on camera hacking and sawing at animals’ throats with blunt knives. In one case, it took five attempts to slaughter a sheep, even though Islamic law mandates that death be instantaneous. Halal rules also state that animals should never see knives or witness the killing of other animals, in order to protect them from unnecessary trauma. But at Bowood, workers regularly sharpened knives in front of sheep and killed animals in the presence of others. They even hoisted and shackled the bodies of the dead in full view of the living.

When we eat animals, we also harm ourselves. Researchers have found that people who don’t eat meat are 50% less likely to develop heart disease than those who do, and vegans tend to have considerably lower blood pressure. Studies in the U.K. and Germany have also found that those who abstain from meat are about 40% less likely to suffer from cancer than meat-eaters are. Dr. Jane Plant—scientist, cancer survivor, and author of The No-Dairy Breast Cancer Prevention Program—says, “Undoubtedly, the best anti-cancer diet would be to go completely vegan.”

Respect all of Allah’s (swt) creations, just as the Qur’an teaches us to. There’s no shortage of delicious, healthful vegan foods to choose from:

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