For meat to be halal, which means permissible, animals must be slaughtered in the name of Allah (God) using a sharp knife to cut the front of the throat, the carotid artery, windpipe and jugular veins, but leave the spinal cord intact. The still-live animals are then hung to allow the blood to drain out.
The cutting is currently done by hand and by machine. The scholars are meeting to resolve the debate within the Islamic community as to whether machine slaughter is permissible under Islamic law.
Masood Khawaja, president of the Halal Food Authority, said his organisation supported machine slaughter. “As long as EU and Islamic law is being followed, which I believe it is, there is no problem [with machine killing],” he said. “The scholars’ decision won’t make any difference.”
Naved Syed, member of Eblex’s halal steering group, said: “If the scholars say machine killing is right, then it’s right; if they don’t, then it’s wrong. If it’s wrong, we’ll tell the Muslim community not to buy meat killed in this way.”
Mohammed Saleem, policy director at the Association of Non Stun Abattoirs (ANSA), said: “This gathering of Ulama and leaders has been overdue. We hope that by gathering all the representatives and scholars from across a diverse range of backgrounds and denominations, we can agree a joint starategy for protecting true unstunned halal.
“There is some noise being made about mechanical slaughter; the truth is, most Muslims have moved on from that and are now demanding true unstunned halal. This is the debate we need to have, this is the actual issue.”