Treatment of animals
Islam and animals
There is not an animal on earth, nor a bird that flies on its wings, but they are communities like you...Qur'an 6:38
Muslims believe that:
- all living creatures were made by Allah
- Allah loves all animals
- animals exist for the benefit of human beings
- animals must be treated with kindness and compassion
Muslims are instructed to avoid:
- treating animals cruelly
- over-working or over-loading animals
- neglecting animals
- hunting animals for sport
- hunting for food is permitted if the animals are killed humanely
- cutting the mane or tail of a horse
- animal fighting as a sport
- factory farming
Using animals is permitted
The Qur'an explicitly states that animals can be used for human benefit.
It is God who provided for you all manner of livestock, that you may ride on some of them and from some you may derive your food. And other uses in them for you to satisfy your heart's desires. It is on them, as on ships, that you make your journeys.Qur'an 40:79-80
Muhammad and animals
There are many stories and sayings of the Prophet that demonstrate his concern for the welfare of animals.
Once someone travelling with the Prophet took some eggs from a nest, causing the mother bird great grief. The Prophet saw this and told the man to return the eggs.
When the Prophet was asked if Allah rewarded acts of charity to animals, he replied: "Yes, there is a reward for acts of charity to every beast alive."
The Prophet said "Whoever kills a sparrow or anything bigger than that without a just cause, Allah will hold him accountable on the Day of Judgment." The Prophet explained that a killing would be for a just cause if it was for food.
Muslim ritual slaughter
Muslims are only allowed to eat meat that has been killed according to Sharia law.
This method of killing is often attacked by animal rights activists as barbaric blood-thirsty ritual slaughter.
Muslims disagree. They say that Islamic law on killing animals is designed to reduce the pain and distress that the animal suffers.
Islamic slaughter rules
These are the rules for Islamic slaughter:
- the slaughterer must be a sane adult Muslim
- the slaughterer must say the name of God before making the cut
- The name of God is said in order to emphasise the sanctity of life and that the animal is being killed for food with God's consent
- the animal must be killed by cutting the throat with the single continuous back and forth motion of a sharp knife
- the cut must sever at least three of the trachea, oesophagus, and the two blood vessels on either side of the throat
- the spinal cord must not be cut
- animals must be well treated before being killed
- animals must not see other animals being killed
- the knife must not be sharpened in the animal's presence
- the knife blade must be free of blemishes that might tear the wound
- the animal must not be in an uncomfortable position
- the animal must be allowed to bleed out
Is this a cruel way to kill an animal?
Some experts say that the animal killed in this way does not suffer if the cut is made quickly and cleanly enough, because it loses consciousness before the brain can perceive any pain.
Other experts disagree and say that the animal remains conscious long enough to feel severe pain.
Pre-stunning to prevent pain
Secular animal slaughter involves pre-stunning animals so that they are unconscious before they are killed. Until recently Muslim law has not permitted pre-stunning.
Muslims feared that pre-stunning might reduce the amount of blood that could drain from the carcase and also because they thought that the animal was sometimes killed by the stunning.
But recently (2004) Masood Khawaja, president of the Halal Food Authority, stated that it was not against halal practice to "immobilise" animals, provided they were not actually killed before their throats are cut.
Halal meat imported to the UK from New Zealand is stunned before slaughter. Masood Khawaja said that this was acceptable to Muslims, provided the religious rites were observed.
It is acceptable as long as the animal is not dead prior to slaughter, all flowing blood has been drained, and a Muslim has done the ritual slaughter.Masood Khawaja (President, Halal Food Authority), 2004
Experiments on animals
According to Al Hafiz B A Masri, using animals for research may be permitted in Islam. The animals must not suffer pain or mutilation and there must be a good reason for the experiment:
Actions shall be judged according to intention. Any kind of medical treatment of animals and experiments on them becomes ethical and legal or unethical and illegal according to the intention of the person who does it.Masri, B.A., Al-Hafiz. Animals in Islam. Great Britain:Athene Trust. 198