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Ritual slaughter

The Irish case is characterised by a lack of detailed empirical information about ritual slaughter. To my knowledge, there is no systematic academic treatment of the topic and what is known about it can only be pieced together from disparate sources. A basic conflict seems to arise between the need to ensure humane treatment of animals on the onehand and the expectations of religious groups concerning proper slaughter methods on the other (Veterinary Ireland 2019). Put another way, this topic brings out the clash between freedom of religious expression and animal welfare and well-being (Ferrari and Bottini 2010). Veterinary Ireland – the representative body of vets in the state – has recently called on the national government – through the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine – to liaise with relevant religious groups in order to balance these competing values (Veterinary Ireland 2019), amid concerns and reservations that the respect for slaughtered animals is not all that it might be. A problem arises here as stunning – the practice of ensuring animals are unconscious prior to slaughter – is not accepted within some religious traditions. According to Ferrari and Bottini’s work, in the Irish case slaughtering without stunning is allowable (Ferrari and Bottini 2010).

The main law governing animal slaughtering in Ireland is the Slaughter of Animals Act, 1935, which seeks to regulate animal-human interactions in this domain. This law allows religious slaughtering, under certain conditions (Irish Statute Book 1935) by making explicit reference (section 15) to the Jewish and Muslim religious traditions. More specifically, these conditions include: when the slaughter is consistent with the Jewish approach, when the slaughter is carried out by a Jew, and when the Jew carrying out the slaughter is approved by the Chief Rabbi (or the board of the Jewish community of Dublin). Similarly, with regard to the Muslim tradition, the act permits the slaughter of animals under three conditions, namely when used for food consumption by Muslims, when carried out by a Muslim, and when the slaughter takes place in accordance with the Muslim – or Mahommedan – approach. Notably, this act has relatively little to say about religious slaughtering, making direct reference to it in only one short section.

According to Veterinary Ireland, the practice of religious slaughtering in Ireland is characterised by a lack of proper regulation. Thus, in 2014 Veterinary Ireland called on the government to introduce and enforce national norms around slaughtering. More specifically, Veterinary Ireland called for the prohibition of religious slaughtering other than in approved slaughterhouses (Veterinary Ireland 2019).

This call may be in response to recent cases of slaughtering of animals outside the bounds of the law, as evidenced by a circuit criminal court case in 2013 concerning the slaughtering of goats in a non-approved slaughterhouse in Co. Kerry. In this case, a Muslim Somalian carried out the slaughtering for the purposes of producing ‘Halal’ meat (Brouder 2013). In addition, some cases have arisen concerning the export of non-stunned meat from Ireland to other European countries (Needham 2002).

Public debate and awareness of religious slaughtering is increasing, as demonstrated by media reportage of the decision of a slaughterhouse in Co. Wexford to discontinue the practice of producing ‘Halal’ meat in light of public concerns about the use of such meat in the mainstream food sector (Vos lz Neias 2010). At the same time, this issue has come into the public domain only relatively recently (mostly in the last 5 years or so). It may well become more debated as an issue in the future, as census data report that the number of Jews and Muslims in Ireland continues to grow (All-Island Research Observatory 2017).

In response to such controversies, the Islamic Cultural Centre of Ireland has sought to clarify the nature of religious slaughtering, arguing that the ‘Halal’ approach may well be less painful to animals – or not painful at all – compared to other methods (Islamic Cultural Centre of Ireland).


 All-Island Research Observatory. 2017. PDR Table 35: Percentage and Actual Change in Population by Sex, Religion, Census Year and Statistic.
 Brouder, Simon. 2013. Slaughter of goats sees Islamic tradition fall foul of Irish law, Irish Independent, 10 July.
 Ferrari, Silvio and Rossella Botini. 2010. Dialrel: Legislation on religious slaughter.
 Irish Statute Book. Slaughter of Animals Act, 1935.
 Islamic Cultural Centre of Ireland. Halal Slaughter Controversy.
 Needham, Christopher. 2002. Library Briefing: Religious slaughter of animals in the EU.
 Veterninary Ireland. 2019. Policy Document on Welfare of Animals Slaughtered Without Prior Stunning.
 Vos lz Neias. 2010. Ireland – Major Kosher meat supplier to stop religious slaughter.

D 10 January 2019    ABrian Conway

CNRS Unistra Dres Gsrl

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