Stunning Chickens for Slaughter is Legal

SAUDI ARABIA - The future growth of the halal food industry, estimated to be worth $500-billion, rests primarily on one simple question: During the industrial-slaughtering process, does the chicken die from the electric shock prior to the cut to its neck or not?
calendar icon 23 July 2010
clock icon 4 minute read

For years this question has been key to determining if giving electric shock prior to slaughter is permitted in Islam. The issue appears to be near its resolution after investigations conducted in Turkey recently by two scholars at the Jeddah-based International Islamic Fiqh Academy (IIFA).

The issue has remained unresolved since 1997 when the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), of which IIFA is a subsidiary organisation, declared that “chicken should not be electrically stunned” because a good number of them die before being bled with a cut to the neck. Since then the questions had lingered, mainly because electric stunning of larger animals — like cows and sheep — has been an acceptable form of industrial slaughter. However, due to the size, some believe chickens die from the shock that is supposed to stun them. Administering enough electricity to stun an animal prior to being bled is permitted, according to the OIC, but electrocuting the animal is not.

According to Arab, Sheikh Abdulqahir Qamar, acting director of the Department of Fatwa, Editing and Publication at the IIFA, and Ahmad Abdul Alim, acting director of the Department of Research and Studies at the IIFA, recently traveled to Turkey to look into the matter.

“We visited four plants in Turkey on the invitation of the Turkish standards agency,” he said. “Our main objective was to learn about the electrical stunning of chickens and to determine if they die before being slaughtered.”

Sheikh Qamar said he and his colleague observed that in all the factories chickens, before being slaughtered, are passed through electrified water for up to two seconds. The water with 40 amperes of current stuns the chicken.

“We checked the system and determined that the chickens do not die before reaching the blade,” he said.

The IIFA scholars took out some of the stunned chickens and they found that in three minutes the birds regained full consciousness.

“This proves that they do not die of the current they are given,” said Sheikh Qamar.

The finding is going to have larger implications for the community. If accepted by the Council of Ulema at the IIFA, it will pave the way for the OIC to set “Halal Food Standard” for the industrial slaughter of fowl to be followed by Muslims throughout the world.

Sheikh Qamar said halal food is a growing industry. Some organizations in the West have set their own certifications and charging halal food companies for this.

“OIC Secretary-General Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu is keen to keep this initiative with the Muslim world before Europe claims its right over the institution, like the way it has made London the main center of Islamic banking,” he said.

The European Union is already working on a draft that would issue certificates for halal food, he added.

The certification of halal food was first mooted by Malaysia which raised the issue at the OIC level in 2005. An OIC committee on this issue is actively working for the last one year. Qamar said halal certification does not cover only the product but other issues as well such as health and hygiene, packaging and transport. He said if the issue is handled in a proper way even non-Muslims would be convinced of the need of halal food and it may become the global norm.
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