By Saif Alam Siddiqui
As the worldwide campaign for the mitigation, if not outright elimination, of cruelty to animals on the way to the slaughterhouse gains ground, the ‘men of faith’ seem to dig in their heels with barbaric impudence. The more the campaign for compassion to animal life becomes a socially-acceptable and practicable norm, the shriller gets the opposition by the ‘faithful’. The non-vegetarian community, especially in the West, gears to the challenges posed by the torture to the ‘beast for the feast’. They suggest that the animal they feast upon be spared the agony of ‘live slaughter’; instead, it be ‘stunned’ (anaesthetized) before it’s slaughtered. In European countries like Sweden, Austria, Norway, Estonia and Switzerland it is mandatory by law to anaesthetize animals before they are slaughtered at the abattoir.
Even the puritanical Jews have by and large conformed to the raison d’etre of making animal-slaughter less painful, though the kosher ritual slaughter be allowed on occasions, they argued during a debate on banning ‘live slaughter’ in the Netherlands. The stiff opposition follows only from the ‘faithful’ the world over. They seek – from West Asia to across the Atlantic and the Asia-Pacific – that ‘halaal’ be served to them in hotels and hospitals, no matter how tortuous the method for slaying the sacrificial lamb be. The process of ‘halaal’, which the faithful claim is prescribed as a tenet for slaughter by their religion, literally makes the animal die by inches, slowly slitting the jugular vein and the carotid artery to the recitation of a Quranic verse. Any other method, less painful, simply makes it ‘haraam’ (proscribed by religion) for these ‘men of belief’. Is it not tantamount to the invocation of the Sharia at a place where there is no legal scope for it and in a manner most retrograde to modern society? Isn’t it as much a human behavioural anomaly as it’s an anachronism in a civilized society?
Animal rights’ protection groups — cutting across the barriers of religion — are vehement in their opposition to the very concept of painful slaughter of animals for satiating the carnivorous gastronomic human instinct. They argue, and logically so, if vegetarianism can not be adapted to — in toto — as a healthy food habit in a particular socio-climatic melieu, atleast what a non-vegetarian set of people can conveniently adopt must conform to a civilized behaviour-at-the-altar for the animal they feast upon.
In such a scenario the very constitution of ‘Halal Development Authority’ or ‘Halal India’ falls foul of international conventions aimed at guarding against infliction of avoidable pain to animals for slaughter. In the US, ‘Humane Methods of Slaughter Act’ expressly says, ” No method of slaughtering or handling in connection with slaughtering shall be deemed to comply with the public policy of the United States unless it is humane… all animals are to be rendered insensible to pain by a single blow or gunshot or an electrical, chemical or other means that is rapid and effective, before being shackled, hoisted, thrown, cast or cut…”
More so, the demand by elite hospital chains, seeking certification for serving ‘halaal’ animal products makes a mockery of animal welfare laws besides providing a legal veneer to an exercise inherently illegal and repugnant to the idea of progressive society. The motive behind such a move by the hospitals is, indeed, economic in nature, inasmuch as medical tourism from the African-Arab region has a huge growth potential in India, yet conceding to demands like ‘halaal’ certification bodes ill for a progressive nation on the march to globalisation.
A similar demand for ‘jhatka’ certification by the Sikh community may ‘justifiably’ be in the offing if such a retrogressive move for ‘halaal’ service at hotels and hospitals in not nipped in the bud. And, it could open a Pandora’s box, catering to the religious predilections of a particular community which the Constitution of the country expressly forbids, too.