Sacrificial Study: New Research Finds Pain in Religious Live Sacrifices

250px-Asvamedha_ramayanaThere has long been tension between animal activists and religious adherents over the sacrificing of live animals. Jewish and Muslim leaders have long argued that the sacrifices are not any more painful than what occurs in slaughter houses. Now a study is challenging that assumption and leading to calls in England for a ban on live sacrifices.

Animal protection laws in the UK required the stunning of animals before slaughter but exempt live religious sacrifices. Both Islamic halal and Jewish kashrut law require that animals are slaughtered by having their throats cut. The animal must be alive to allow blood to drain freely — a relatively slow death for the animal. Conversely, the Sikh ritual – chatka – is a fast death caused by a sword.

A study by New Zealand’s Massey University tested animals to detect pain responses and found that Jewish and Islamic methods caused pain within two minutes following the cut, but the animals would fall unconscious after 10 to 30 seconds. They concluded that the ritual slaughter was “painful” — a conclusion that many would find obvious, but it has legal significance since religious advocates have always argued that there was little pain.

Adam Rutherford, an editor of Nature, wrote that the study shows that “the anachronism of slaughter without stunning has no place in the modern world and should be outlawed. This special indulgence to religious practices should be replaced with the evidence-based approaches to which the rest of us are subject.”

Animal advocates are now calling for the UK to follow other European countries to require stunning before slaughter.

I assume that the researchers will now move on to the ritual of Kapparot, where a fowl is held by the neck and swung around the head for Yom Kippur — a sacrifice that is generally not viewed as “chicken friendly.”

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7 thoughts on “Sacrificial Study: New Research Finds Pain in Religious Live Sacrifices”

  1. “Conversely, the Sikh ritual – chatka – is a fast death caused by a sword”

    The Sikh method of killing an animal (not really a ritual more of a method) is called Chatka, (literally meaning ‘shock’).

    The method of Chatka means that the animal must be killed by the result of one blow or shock that minimizes the pain to an animal. Traditionally (depending on the size of the animal) a sword is used to decapitate the head from the animal, however 21st Century tools to do Chatka, (i.e. stunning) are very much welcomed by Sikhs.

  2. Oh yes, the kaparot ceremony, in which a live chicken is used before Yom Kippur to symbolically transfer sins, is not “swung.” It is merely held over the heads of those being blessed. Swinging it would risk breaking the legs of the bird, which would render the bird non-kosher and unusable. Therefore the animal is treated gently.

  3. First of all, neither Islam nor Judaism currently practice “sacrifices.” That is an ignorant statement. What the so-called animal rights activists oppose, at least with respect to Judaism, is the Jewish method of slaughter that defines whether the slaughtered animal is kosher (i.e. fit for consumption) under Jewish law. Stunning an animal prior to slaughter, by definition, makes the slaughtered animal non-kosher.

    What startles me is that European animal rights groups will stoop to lying on the issue to end the Jewish practice of shkitah, and they are often aligned with anti-semitic groups as well. Some years ago, the Netherlands proposed legislation that would have outlawed kosher slaughter. I called their U.S. Embassy and spoke with the agricultural attache who explained to me that some meat inspectors had noticed that “it had taken the rabbis as many as three strokes of their knives to kill the animal.” I explained to him that if it took more than one back and forth motion, the animal was definitely non-kosher and would be unusable. Therefore, the testimony was false and the witness may have had some other motive for lying. I put the Embassy in touch with the Orthdox Union — the world’s largest kashrut supervising organization — and communication about what kosher slaughter actually entailed killed the proposal.

    What lies are being told in England? I can only imagine.

  4. The entire post is based on the idea that animals should not feel pain. But in what world is that a realistic standard? The objective standard should be whether the animal is being tortured. Stunning is not 100% anyway from what I’ve read. Many times the animal has to be repeatedly stunned. Stunning was instituted to facilitate killing, not for “humane” reasons.

    What is next, that we can’t shoot deer because they feel pain? What do we do when they’ve eaten the entire ecosystem and then starve. Starving is painful, much more painful than bleeding out from a gunshot wound. Should we outlaw driving, as cars kill more deer than hunters in many parts of the country. Or do wild animals not get the same protection as domesticated animals? Would seem to me, that wild animals should get more than animals bred solely for human consumption.

    Right now in the U.S., there are certain animals you are not allowed to butcher at home (like cows). Don’t think this has anything to do with humane butchering. This no doubt is a rule to take home grown beef out of the supply chain. If you are worried about CWD and want to grow your own beef, tough luck. Your animal goes to the plant with all the sick cows and is killed on the same equipment.

    No doubt this entire controversy was funded by big Ag interests to raise costs/eliminate small kosher butcher operations.

  5. I presume that the way I learned to prepare dinner with the chicken being the main guest and to properly bleed a swine would be not be welcomed either.

    Well Sunday dinner is a religious experience here, so come on over to Texas or Florida and do your thing here or there:

    In Texas, the City of Euless banned … sacrificing a goat back in 2006, saying it jeopardized public health and violated animal cruelty ordinances.

    Of course, he sued saying his religious freedoms were violated, but a U.S. District Court disagreed with his claims and so Merced was not allowed to resume his goat sacrifices.

    But then the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned this ruling (without hearing the case) and now Merced can continue sacrificing goats in Euless for religious purposes.

    In 1993, a high court in Florida said, “no religion or religious practice may be ‘singled out for discriminatory treatment ‘ even if its activities are viewed as “abhorrent” by most. I don’t agree. I think if they are “abhorrent” than we’ve got a problem.


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