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A dispensation to cause pain

Thanks to LWS for the link.

The ritual slaughter of animals decreed by Jewish and Muslim dietary laws require that the animals are conscious when they have their throats slit. In the European secular food industry, regulations strive to minimise "the risk of causing pain, fear or distress to the animals" in their being slaughtered for food. Crucially, these rules require the stunning of animals before being killed, either with a bolt to the brain, or with electricity. However, the law kowtows before the Jewish kashrut and Islamic halal guidelines in permitting avoidance of stunning.

This week New Zealand veterinarian scientist Craig Johnson was given an award from the Humane Slaughter Association, for his body of work that demonstrates that animals suffer more without stunning. In one crucial experiment, Johnson et al administered mild anaesthetics to calves so that they could not feel the pain of the incision, but the pain response was still measurable. It remained present in the animals without stunning, but was immediately erased by stunning.

"I think our work is the best evidence yet that it's painful", Johnson told New Scientist. While this may appear to come from the oft-referenced University of the Bleeding Obvious, in fact defenders of Jewish shechita and Muslim dhabiha slaughter cite scientific evidence that the practice is not painful to the animal. In 2003, the Muslim Council of Great Britain claimed that "the brain is instantaneously starved of blood and there is no time to start feeling any pain." Johnson's work says otherwise.
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