Humane and Ritual Slaughter in Australia

  1. Introduction

Australia’s economy relies partly on sheep and cattle meat exports to the economy. Over 32 million sheep and cattle are slaughtered every year for export to Muslim and Christina as well as Jewish Customers across the world. Muslims and Jews can only consume meat that has been subjected to their sanctified rituals: the halal and kosher, respectively. The 20th and 21st centuries have seen the rise of Animal activists who are out there to protect the interests of animals. Here in Australia, there has been a mushrooming of animal rights movements and activists. These groups are emphasizing on Christian-based values that stress on empathy and sympathy towards others. Much of the criticism is leveled against the manner in which animals are being slaughtered. They argue that some of the ritual and animal slaughtering practices are so cruel to animals hence need to be eradicated (Animals Australia, 2011; Grandin & Regenstein, 1994; Walsh 2012).

However, one wonders whether really there is a humane way of dying with respect to animals that will eventually breathe their last breath to feed human beings, dogs, cats and other animals. This paper explores this issue of animal slaughtering the view of looking into the ethical concerns related to the ritual slaughtering of animals in Australia.

  1. Humane and Ritual Slaughter in Australia

2.1. Ritual Killing in Australian Abattoirs: Halal and Kosher

Ritual killing of meat animals in Australian abattoirs is subject to the kosher and halal ritual requirement, for Jews and Muslims respectively. Jews and Muslims are followers of Judaism and Islam, the two members of Abrahamic religions, which happen also to include Christianity. The common ancestry of the two religions makes them share beliefs about meat and the slaughtering requirements (Hoffman & Rumsey, 2008; Wilson, 2005).

Kosher is the Jewish customary slaughter requirements. Kosher rules define the way animal is supposed to be slaughtered. The rules as specified by the Talmud or the Jewish Library of Oral Law and Tradition as well as in the in the first five books of the Bible. Kosher slaughtering process involves the cut of the throat in away that causes rapid and quick death for the animal as well as total bleeding. This is made possible by the use of a sharp knife (Animal Ethics Dilemma, n. d.; Hoffman & Rumsey, 2008).

Kosher slaughtering requires that the process be done by an expert who is known as a shochet. The animal to be slaughtered has to be healthy and uninjured. The throat slit open while the animal is standing with a raised head. The shochet has to use a long knife, about sixteen and twelve inches for cattle and sheep, respectively. The knife should be used to slaughter the animal in a one and unbroken strike. The knife should be verified for sharpness by the shochet. The shochet should be blessed before entering the abattoir. The shochet should cut the animals neck while ensuring that all the components except the spinal cord are cut. Later on the blood has to be drained completely (Animal Ethics Dilemma, n. d.; Wilson, 2005).

When performing the halal slaughtering ritual there are specifications that are common with the kosher: sharpness of the knife, the slaughtering to be done by a trained or specialized individual and the slaughter of healthy animal standing upright with a raised head and the total draining of the blood. However, the halal ritual requires that the slaughtering be done by a male specialist, the animals should be facing Mecca when the throat is cut, that the slaughter house be inspected and approved by Muslim religious leaders, that the phrase “in the Name of Allah, The Merciful, The Compassionate” be performed while performing the slaughter for it is dedicated to Him (Wilson, 2005)

However there is a practice in Australia where the animals are stunned before slaughter. The stunning process involves several methods aimed at making the animal totally unconscious before slaughtering is executed. This practice is done in both ritual and none ritual abattoirs. Several techniques are employed. One of the techniques involves electric stunning, percussion stunning and carbon dioxide stunning (FAO, n. d.).

Percussion stunning involves the gun-firing of a blank cartridge which pushes a small metal rod from the barrel which permeates the skull causing damage to the brain or leading to pressure development in the skull. Electrical stunning involves the electrocution of the animals. Carbon dioxide stunning involves the pumping of carbon dioxide in the room where animals are to make them weak. Sometimes irate animals are stunned by being short with live ammunitions leaving tem dead before their throats are slit open (FAO, n. d.)

2.2. Historic Bans on Religious Slaughter

Very many animal rights activists, animal welfare groups and religious groups have voiced their concerns that the manner in which animals are treated in Australian abattoirs is un-ethical and therefore in humane. In 2009 Princess Alia Bint al-Hussein of Jordan sent a letter to Prime Minister Kevin Rudd to stop the killing of un-stunned animals, in the name of ritual killing, in order to improve animal welfare in Australia (Edwards, 2009).

Killing of un-stunned animals has been banned in Australian. Those abattoirs that are found to be violating the ban are consequently shut down by the government. To effect the ban the Royal Society for the Protection of Animals (RSPCA) has increased its frequent checks in Australian abattoirs to reign on those violating its rules and standards of operating abattoirs. According to the RSPCA’s standards,


Animal activists stand with scientifically accredited slaughterhouse practices. According to these practices, animals are supposed to experience minimum suffering even if they if they going to die. The pain-reduction process can be enhanced by use of sharp knives, just like the kosher and halal regulations recommend. Subjecting animals to unnecessary suffering and pain is unethical. Ethical considerations require that animals for slaughter are not supposed to be beaten or their heads banged, heads knocked on the wall or short with metal rods as practiced in the stunning processes during and before slaughtering. Animals for slaughter are not supposed to be short before their throats are slit open (Michigan State University, n. d.; The Habitat Advocate, 2012).

2.3. Ritual Slaughter Still Persists

In spite of the existence of law criminalizing cruelty towards animals, in spite of the international condemnation of stunning process in Australian abattoirs, stunning continued to persist. What the federal government has done is to designate a few abattoirs where animals are not stunned before being slaughtered the halal and kosher way. This is according to RSPCA findings which show that in spite of the ban, the government has continued to let some of its abattoirs to kill conscious animals for the Middle East market, perhaps on religious freedom’s grounds. In addition the government has continued to support the exportation of live animals to the Middle East countries like Indonesia, for slaughter, hence playing a double game (Keane, 2012; Macdonald, 2013; The Habitat Advocate, 2012).

Below is a table of live exported to countries where ritual slaughter persists in 2012:-



Country of  Destination Animals
Turkey All live stock
Israel Cattle, buffalo, sheep and goats
Malaysia Cattle, buffalo, sheep, goats and camelids
Jordan Cattle, buffalo, sheep and goats
Kuwait All livestock
Libya Cattle, buffalo, sheep and goats

(Source: Australian Government: Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, 2013).

  1. 4. Conclusion

The Australian government among other stakeholders should come out and address the concerns raised by the animal rights activists, religious leaders and all sane individuals that stunning of animals is unethical. More importantly, the government should be made aware that religious leaders are not supporting stunning process in ritual slaughterhouses because it goes against their religious beliefs.











Animal Ethics Dilemma. (n. d.). Kosher. Retrieved February 7, 2013 from

Animals Australia. (2011). Ritual Slaughter in Australia. Retrieved February 7, 2013 from

Australian Government: Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry. (2013). Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System (ESCAS). Retrieved February 12, 2013 from

Edwards, L. (2009). Royal plea to PM on ritual slaughter. Retrieved February 7, 2013 from

FAO. (n.d.). CHAPTER 7: Slaughter of livestock. Retrieved February 7, 2013 from

Grandin, T. & Regenstein, J. M. (1994). Religious slaughter and animal welfare: a discussion for meat scientists. Retrieved February 7, 2013 from

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Hoffman, M., & Rumsey, M. (2008). International and foreign legal research: A coursebook. Boston: Martinus Nijhoff Publishers.Top of Form

Macdonald, K. (2013). GOVERNMENT allows animals to be brutally killed in the Middle East & in Australia. Retrieved February 11, 2013 from

Michigan State University. (n. d.). United States Code Annotated. Title 7. Agriculture. Chapter 48. Humane Methods of Livestock Slaughter. Retrieved February 7, 2013 from

Sankoff, P. J., & White, S. W. (2009). Animal law in Australasia: A new dialogue. Annandale, N.S.W: Federation Press.

The Habitat Advocate. (2012). Ban horrific halal abattoirs as cruel & inhumane. Retrieved February 11, 2013 from

Walsh, R. (2012). Animal Cruelty and Kosher/Halal slaughter. Retrieved February 7, 2013 from

Wilson, W. (2005). Wilson’s practical meat inspection. Oxford, UK: Blackwell Pub.


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