A perennial favourite of the “meat is murder” lobby is the alleged barbarism of ritual slaughter. Jews have long been targeted by the lunatic fringe for the supposedly barbaric practice of shechita; (1) in recent years Moslems have come in for the same sort of criticism, sometimes by the well-meaning but gullible, at others by the bigoted whose interest in “animal rights” is a smokescreen for other things. The latter are easily recognised; the former have to be not only recognised but refuted. After all, surely it can’t be humane to slaughter a harmless animal in a “barbaric” manner, slitting its throat while it is still conscious and allowing the blood to run out while the poor creature gasps for air, and all for the sake of a religious ritual?
People who make such observations seldom consider the full ramifactions of what they are saying. Yes, it is not “humane” to slit an animal’s throat while it is fully conscious, but it is not “humane” to slit its throat per se and eat it, or to kill it in any other manner either. Does anyone really believe that it is more “humane” to shoot a bolt into a sheep’s brain, or to ring a chicken’s neck, than it is to slit a cow’s throat? If you want your roast beef and Yorkshire pudding, that is the price you will have to pay.
Animals do not have “rights” in the same way that human beings have rights. As philosopher Roger Scruton points out: “Anybody who thinks about the concept of a right will know that animals cannot have rights without also having duties and that this means that it must be possible to blame them, punish them, reward them and also hold them guilty for their violations of others’ rights. In which case whole species, like the eagle and the lion, would have to be condemned as inexorable violators of the right of others to life.” (2)
Clearly this is absurd. The concept of animal rights is a fallacy; animal welfare though is a different issue. The idea that animals should not be brutalised unnecessarily, that they should not be tortured or caused unnecessary distress or suffering is a very different concept from that of extending them “rights”. Nowhere in the Koran to my limited knowledge does it say that animals should be tortured, nor in any other holy book save perhaps in one published by some obscure offshoot of Satanism.
For some people though there is no salvation. In its May 8, 1998 issue the Daily Mail reported on the case of 47 year old Mrs Stella Marsden and her “rescue” of Robin the ram. Apparently she was befriended by this creature when out walking her dogs. Then one day she learned from a local shepherd that her erstwhile companion was “destined for an horrific fate - being bled to death in a traditional halal slaughter for the Moslem meat market in France.” (3) Terrible, isn’t it? And of course Robin the ram would have been so much happier if instead he’d ended up on the a la carte tray at the London Savoy where he could have been devoured in a civilised manner by well-bred English Christians with roast potatoes and mint sauce.
Mrs Marsden wasn’t having any of that either, so she had a whip-round at a coffee morning and purchased the black-faced ram from the farmer. Now domiciled in a stable, Robin the ram has become a family pet. And his gallant rescuer has had him castrated into the bargain. I’m glad she didn’t rescue me!
[The above article was published originally in Common Sense, Issue 32, 2001, which can be found at the Internet Archive]
Alternative link for the above publication.
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