Philippe Radault is the only author of this work. It is strictly forbidden to reproduce, represent, use or modify – either partially or entirely – this text by any means or into any form whatsoever without the prior written agreement of the author.
© Philippe Radault – Oct. 2001 - 2015
Halal and/or kosher slaughter methods are commonly carried out in many French slaughterhouses.
This consists in cutting the animal’s throat (cow, bull, calf, sheep, poultry), while it is still fully conscious.
For this reason, in modern slaughterhouses, the animal is placed in a rotating restraint box, its body is kept in the middle of a metallic device that is moved by hydraulic pressure, its head is kept elevated, sometimes at the edge of the cervical vertebrae, so that the throat can be exposed.
Then, the box is electrically turned upside down; the animal is now lying on its back and the throat is in the air.
...The bleeding can start.
The butcher who conducts the ritual slaughter has to cut the throat, along with the trachea, the esophagus, carotid arteries, jugular veins…
The rabbi is not allowed to move the knife back and forth, or to apply a pressure with either his finger or his hand on the blade: he must therefore cut the throat properly with a single movement of the blade; the gesture requires a perfect control, otherwise the carcass will be refused by the rabbi and put to the regular meat circuit, even if the animal has had its throat cut in the name of a religious principle.
With such standards of perfection, it is easy to imagine how often failures happen, especially during the time when the rabbi gets trained in this very technical gesture.
What is unfortunate about the Muslim method of slaughtering animals is that the knife used for it is not always appropriate for the size of the animal’s throat, and it does not always cut enough. In these cases the person who’s conducting the killing shreds the throat with their knife, which causes extra pain to the animal.
Every animal is different; the cow, the bull and the calf fit more or less within the space of the rotating box reserved for this matter. However, some animals that don’t fit properly have enough space to move violently and panic once the slaughter has started.
In a slaughterhouse I have personally witnessed a calf being placed in the rotating box for the cows, and being held within this space that was too large for it with ropes that were tensioned by employees alongside (there was no contention box dedicated to calves in this slaughterhouse). The slaughter ‘went well’, according to the Muslim ritual: the calf did not move much, and it did not fall when the box rotated; nevertheless the operation was tricky and seems unreliable (besides, we were asked not to film that very moment).
Let’s get back to the slaughter: the beast struggles, there’s a lot of blood gushed out, it flows everywhere, in the bulging eyes, inside the animal’s nostrils while it tries to breath in a death rattle. The mouth is filled with foam that invades the windpipe; its tongue hangs out of the mouth.
The agony may last several minutes.
Finally, the animal will be evacuated from the rotating box and will end up losing consciousness. Then, the next one will take its place.
The blood is only partially cleaned after each animal (halal slaughter).
Moreover, in the slaughterhouse I have visited, the cows are dragged through a puddle of their own blood and of the blood of the beasts slaughtered before them, to be brought to the slaughter line (to the cutting rooms, upstairs). This can be seen in the film Life in the Slaughterhouse, by Philippe Radault.
Jewish and Muslim communities want to act like that because they are too often convinced that the act comes from a divine commandment, written in their sacred books.
Which is false, as the act comes either from methodologies transmitted orally for thousands of years (Jewish religion) or from interpretations made after the Divine Word (Muslim religion).
The statements regarding animal consumption from authorized butchers are, for the Torah:
- “You may slaughter animals from the herds and flocks (…) as I have commanded you”… (Deuteronomy 12:21).
“Do not eat anything you find already dead”… (Deuteronomy 14:21).
“You shall eat the blood of no manner of flesh; for the life of all flesh is the blood thereof: whosoever eateth it shall be cut off.” (Leviticus 17:14)
“And every soul that eateth that which died of itself, or that which was torn with beasts, whether it be one of your own country, or a stranger, he shall both wash his clothes, and bathe himself in water, and be unclean until the even: then shall he be clean.” (Leviticus 17:15)
For the Koran, the only orders are as follows:
“He has forbidden you (to eat) only what dies of itself and the blood and the flesh of swine and that over which any other than Allah has been invoked.” (Surah 2 – Verse 173)
The Surah 5 – Verse 3 also states that “Prohibited to you are dead animals, blood, the flesh of swine, and that which has been dedicated to other than Allah, and (those animals) killed by strangling or by a violent blow or by a head-long fall or by the goring of horns, and those from which a wild animal has eaten, except what you (are able to) slaughter (before its death), and animals sacrificed on altars”...
Nothing in these sacred writings forbids to knock unconscious or to electrocute the animal, as it is practiced in traditional slaughtering: a shot in the forehead, then the bleeding of the animal (for the cattle and the ovine race), anesthetic electrocution and then the bleeding of the animal (poultry and the ovine race). Such modern methods prevent animals from panicking at the moment of death and therefore decrease their physical and moral suffering; on the contrary of what is commonly thought, it does not contravene the Jewish and Muslim rituals at all.
When an animal is knocked unconscious, it doesn’t die, its heart still beats perfectly. It is only unconscious. Consequently when it’s bleeding, the animal is emptied just as if its throat were cut in total consciousness (we have to remember that no matter what the slaughter method is, it is impossible to bleed an animal to the point that all the blood is eliminated).
This is the way Professor Gilbert Mouthon, from the Veterinary School of Maisons-Alfort describes it:
-“In the traditional slaughter, done with a special gun or by electrocution, the animal is totally alive at the moment of being bled. The major functions of the body remain. The heart beats, the animal keeps breathing. There’s confusion between the fact of being alive and the fact of being conscious; that’s where the difference stands. In traditional slaughter, knocking the animal unconscious or electrocuting it only makes the animal unconscious but does not kill it”.
Knocking the animal unconscious or electrocuting is part of a highly codified process: you cannot separate it from the act of the bleeding: these two actions unfold in the same area of the slaughterhouse.
As a consequence, the animal is alive when bled; this concerns cows, calves, bulls, sheep that are stunned with a special gun, and also poultry and sheep that are electrocuted.
In a facility I visited, that still practices both slaughtering methods (ritual and normal, with the special gun), I witnessed a weird scene that gave me reasons to believe that some liberties may be taken with the recommended Islamic ordinance: a halal meat wholesaler, probably to fill in a gap in his stock, came to the facility to not only get carcasses from ritually slaughtered cows, but also carcasses of cows that had been stunned with the slaughtering gun. All these animals happened to be bled to death by a Muslim employee, which seemed to “fit the purpose” of the wholesaler.
Finally, all these carcasses were stamped “Halal” before my eyes.
In 2001, I was invited by the Rabbi Michel Brami, responsible for the slaughter rituals in France, at the Consistory of Paris.
He explained to me:
-“Once the arteries have been severed, the arterial tension of the animal collapses, the animal’s brain is no longer supplied with blood or oxygen and the animal dies very quickly; it dies in about ten seconds…. Even if the animal struggles, it does not suffer, they are nervous reflexes after the arterial tension has completely dropped.”
Which is very far from what Professor Mouthon told me:
-“They pretend that the hemorrhage causes low blood pressure to the point that the animal is no longer conscious; that’s false! You can notice in any slaughterhouse or wherever the killings take place that the animal is totally conscious. Some of them are able to get up… They are conscious. And that’s an aberration. And some European countries have forbidden ritual slaughters without knocking the animal unconscious, after proving that the animal was still alive, which was dictated by religion.”
I witnessed the following scene in a big modern public slaughterhouse: a cow with its throat cut has been able to get back on its feet once out of the rotating box (approximately 2 minutes and 45 seconds after the throat cutting). In a way, its head was then put back on its neck, thus sort of making the huge cut in its throat “disappear”. It seemed to gain a little strength, clumsily tried to take 3 to 4 steps, before it heavily fell down a few seconds later, making the ground tremble and violently breaking one of its horns that was projected away… Needless to say, witnessing this scene was particularly distressing.
Let’s add that large animals slaughtering ritual increases the risk of personal injury for the slaughterhouse employees: the reason is that each ritually slaughtered animal is unique and unpredictable, precisely because the beasts are fully aware when their throat is cut.
This is different with pre-slaughter stunning, wherein the animals reactions are generally much more predictable (in general, stronger or weaker convulsions of the hind legs may be observed for a few seconds: cf. the documentary Life in the Slaughterhouse).
Anyway, after witnessing numerous ritual slaughters, it seems obvious to me that it takes several minutes for the animal to die, and not “about ten seconds”.
It’s worth remembering that at the moment when the windpipe and the carotids are cut, the brain still contains enough blood. In addition, after the throat has been cut, the spinal cord has not been touched: it contains a small amount of blood, therefore oxygen continues to nourish the brain through the spinal bulb. This explains the fact that the animal can live a few seconds after the slaughtering act: it remains conscious, feels the pain, can stand and even run during its agony. We can even see the persistence of an eye reflex (eye winking), which is a sign of consciousness. (This can be seen several times in the film Life in the Slaughterhouse).
After that, I asked the Rabbi another question:
-“Knocking the animal unconscious before it being bled prevents the panic, therefore the increase of physical and moral suffering for the animal since, while it’s still alive, is turned unconscious; would you be supportive to knocking the animal unconscious before the slaughter ritual?”
Here is what he responded:
-“Knocking the animal unconscious can have an effect over the draining of the blood… The draining of the blood can be made at a much slower rate, which would cause problems.”
Then again the scientific wording of Professor Mouthon seems to undermine the affirmation: when I ask him:
-“An animal slaughtered in a traditional way, by shot or electrocution, drains its blood just as well as an animal that’s been slaughtered in a ritual way?”
He responds, categorical:
-“Totally in the same way. There is no difference.”
Yet it appears that a ritually slaughtered bovine may bleed to death slower and less efficiently than its stunned fellow creature, which runs counter to the intended aim. Indeed, as Professor Mouthon has observed, it frequently happens that the throat skin of the ruminant within the rotating box is aspired every time the animal inhales strongly (this is due to the level of stress caused by the cutting while the animal is aware, and by everything that follows), and that the skin subsequently blocks veins and arteries, thus slowing down the bleeding, instead of facilitating it. This can be noticed in the first ritual slaughter shown in the film Life in the Slaughterhouse.
This impediment due to the skin on the throat cannot happen when the animal is shot with a special gun, because it is unaware (stunned), and then suspended with its head downward: its breathing is not impacted by a high level of stress and may be considered as normal.
The Rabbi continues his explanation on the process of the Jewish ritual slaughter:
-“After the ritual slaughter, there is a control of the lungs and other organs essentially. We have to make sure that there’s no extra or missing organ. We check that the lungs have not been punctured. Therefore, we inflate them and make sure that there’s no perforation. But before that, there’s a first inspection of the lungs, while they are still inside the animal (the one that just died): the Rabbi cuts the diaphragm then puts his hand and feels the lung to determine if there are any adherences. If that is the case, he makes note of it and when the organ is extracted, he controls if there’s a perforation or not.”
I ask him:
-“What happens in case there is a perforation?”
M.B.: -“Well it is not kosher; we cannot eat it, it is forbidden.”
P.R.: -“What happens then to the carcass?”
M.B.: -“The carcass is put into the regular meat circuit.”
P.R.: -“If I’m understanding what you are saying: at the beginning the slaughter method is religious; if an animal, after a post mortem test, is declared non-kosher, it goes back to the regular meat circuit. Is it not necessary that the people who are going to buy the meat know that the animal was killed in a different way, without knocking it unconscious first?”
M.B.: -“The meat cannot leave the slaughterhouse before having received the agreement of the veterinary services. They are the ones who decide if it can leave the slaughterhouse or not.”
In other words and to make clear what the Rabbi did not specify: nothing tells the ordinary consumer that the animal has gone through a slaughter ritual.
In addition, only the front of the animals, from the head to the back (cut at the 8th rib for the cattle) can be eaten by Jewish people, under the denomination “kosher meat” and sold in specialized butcher houses. The rest of the carcass, the back, the sides, the legs, all those parts related to the sciatic nerve are rejected by the Jewish religion and will be taken into the regular circuit (supermarkets, butchers, restaurants, schools, etc.)
This is cheating on the non-Jewish consumers, the non-believers and the animal lovers who take for granted that the animal has been knocked unconscious before being bled to death.
Let’s quote the testimony of ancient interviewer Gil Raconis, who was part of an animal rights association:
-“In a slaughterhouse that I visited, 50 big animals were killed following the Jewish ritual; only 23 animals were chosen and declared to be acceptable as kosher. The other 27 animals that were rejected were put into regular circulation".
The whole body of an animal slaughtered according to the Muslim ritual may be consumed by Muslim persons and sold under the « Halal » label, in specialized butcher shops in particular.
But if not all parts of the cow, the beef or the sheep are sold in the halal network, the remaining parts will be redirected into the general distribution circuit.
Then again: no information for the consumer with respect to the slaughter method used.
This is cheating on the non-Muslim consumers, the non-believers and the animal lovers who take for granted that the animal has been knocked unconscious before being bled to death.
Moreover, in regions of rising demand for halal ritual slaughter, such as the Ile-de-France area, some slaughterhouses come to have only this kind of slaughtering for the purpose of productivity and internal organization, thus completely abandoning stunning with a gun or electrocution.
This certainly constitutes a regression on how the animals for slaughter are treated in our country.
But this enables all these facilities to sell their meat equally to both the halal network and the general one: flexibility will be improved since there is a priori no obstacle to letting everyone ingest halal meat.
But let us be clear: Muslim and Jewish French citizens have the right to refuse to eat pork, and one can understand that they wish to be properly informed of the presence or the absence of this meat in food, by means of a clear labelling. Efforts in this direction are made on a number of products.
Likewise, I consider that each French citizen should also have the right to refuse to eat an animal that suffered from a religious slaughter without being immediately suspected of anti-Semitism, racism, religious intolerance, or “secular” intolerance. Nevertheless, there is no requirement for the professionals to inform the consumer through a clear labelling of the kind of slaughter the animal has undergone, and of the religious nature thereof. It is not right that a citizen, agnostic or not, atheist or of another religion, should be unaware that the animal he’s about to eat has had its throat cut while being fully conscious in accordance with the halal or kosher rituals.
Ordinary consumers also have the right to know and have the right to eat what they wish.
Another point regarding ritual slaughter: At the time of cutting the animal’s throat, the esophagus is also cut. This causes physical reactions in the animal still conscious and under a lot of stress, such as vomit. The esophagus and bowel contents may then spread on the front parts of the animal (that is, the less noble parts, which will be used as ground beef).
When that regurgitation takes place, vomit goes to the cut made on the windpipe, mixes with the expelled blood and spreads over the meat that will be consumed.
An example may be observed in Philippe Radault’s film Life in the Slaughterhouse (at the end of the part relating to the ritual slaughters).
The vomit can also enter the lungs, which will contaminate the rib cage.
A lot of parasites, gastric acid and bacteria, in particular the terrible Escherichia Coli may be found in this vomit, which can cause death and severe renal failures, in particular among children.
Clearly, ritual slaughter poses then an extra risk to human health.
After having witnessed several ritual slaughters in a big public slaughterhouse, I had a meeting with the Director of the place, Mr. Gérard Vergracht. His testimony is interesting and rather unexpected, given his position. He said:
-“I am against ritual slaughtering and I can’t even witness it. It is unnecessary suffering for the animal. I do not agree. We make it because we have to. We also have obligations towards the government: we have to do it so that it is not done in some other place that is not a slaughterhouse; we have to be aware of that too.
We have to because of a contract that we have to comply with. But my personal opinion is that I would do anything to stop it from happening.
When kids are brought by their schoolteachers to see something like this, I am stunned. It’s a massacre, terrible suffering for the animal. And it is often that a number of Muslims want to be present at the slaughter of the animal and bring their kids with them. It’s regrettable. One of the reasons we have stopped the slaughtering of sheep at this slaughterhouse is because we would always give the animal an anesthetic electric shock on the head to prevent that the cutting of the throat to be made while the animal was fully conscious. The Muslim community was not happy…. But I had the agreement from the veterinary services.”
P.R.: -“Did you go through a lot of pressure, because you were modifying the ritual to kill the animal where the sheep had to be fully conscious?”
G.V.: -“Of course! Even threats…”
This work has not the intention of forbidding the ritual slaughtering but to impose the need to turn the animal unconscious before killing it, thus trying to respect religions.
There’s no obstacle to the electrocution or shot of the animals prior to the ritual slaughter. That is practised in other countries.
Better yet: both religions consider animals to be of divine creation, therefore worthy of respect. For the Koran and the Torah, it is better to avoid the suffering of an animal when it’s killed.
Finally: refusing to improve the treatment of animals slaughtered ritually gets the Jewish and Muslim communities to find themselves in a manifest contradiction with their sacred books.
As a conclusion, I would like to ask one simple question to those who doubt or deny the pain, panic and agony suffered by the animal slaughtered ritually. The question is:
If you had the choice of your own death, would you rather have your throat cut or to be shot in the head before that?
In my opinion, if you respond to this question honestly, you will de facto know with certainty what is better for cows and sheep, these other mammals...
© Philippe Radault – 2015French version and video at:
DVD of the documentary Life in the Slaughterhouse for sale on Amazon: