I have written often here about the human slaughter that fundamentalists of all religions seem to countenance with approval, if not outright glee. But for one blog at least, let us spare a thought for the slaughter of animals. I should stress immediately that I am not the sort of person who gets excited about animals. We have had pets over the years and I quite like cats and dogs, and they seem on the whole to quite like me, so I am not immune from their charms. But I don’t get them confused with humans, and personally, if I am going to get hot under the collar about cruelty, the RSPCC gets my money rather than the RSPCA every time. And if scientific experiment on animals is necessary to increase human wellbeing and happiness, I am broadly in favour. In recent years, I have become aware of increasing evidence of the previously underestimated intelligence of a wide range of animals, wild and domesticated, and while I think this means that we do need to keep our laws relating to humane treatment of animals under review, I remain of the opinion that humans uniquely possess self-consciousness (as opposed to consciousness) and that there is therefore a yawning chasm between ourselves and the animal kingdom. But, I am lucky enough to live in a country with humane laws that should ensure that pain and discomfort for animals is kept to a minimum and unfortunately that is not true everywhere in the world. We can lay the blame for that pretty squarely with religion. Judaism and Islam are two religions that do not allow animals to be humanely stunned before slaughter out of obedience to some insane edicts from their even more insane divinities.
Of course it is true that in Genesis, God is supposed to have given us dominion over animals. And I do think that for thousands of years, humans and domesticated animals have developed an implicit pact – we protect them from nature ‘red in tooth and claw’ in return for which, we get to eat them in due time:. As you can therefore imagine, I do not have much truck with vegetarianism. But to slit an animal’s throat when it is screaming and squirming in fear, rather than calmly, cleanly and humanely stunning it first, all because some bloodthirsty old deity demands it, reduces the perpetrators of the act, and the barbaric cretins that frequent such butchers, to the status of the animals they so callously slaughter. There isn’t much that we can do in the West to stop this in other countries – but why do we allow it on our own doorstep? Slaughterhouses in the UK that kill animals for kosher (i.e. Jewish) or halal (i.e. Islamic) meat can currently be granted exemption from the requirement to pre-stun animals. And our major supermarkets are complicit; a Secular Society survey has just revealed:
Three supermarkets – Morrisons, Sainsbury's and Tesco – sold halal meat from animals which were not stunned, without clear labelling to indicate this. Five of the supermarkets – Morrisons, Ocado, Sainsbury's, Tesco and Waitrose – sold kosher meat online. Waitrose sells unstunned meat despite a policy which misleadingly implies otherwise. The only major supermarket that credibly and explicitly rejected all non-stunned meat was Marks & Spencer.
I want to live in a country where humane laws to protect animals are rigorously and universally applied so that I can go on eating meat with a clear conscience. It is high time Government made slaughterhouses, wholesalers and retailers comply with the law – without exceptions on religious or any other grounds.