Essay: Ritual Slaughter
A few cattle are stunned using electricity. An electric shock is administered to the animal’s head, hopefully rendering it unconscious. Sometimes this is followed by the administration of a larger current to the animal’s body, killing it by cardiac arrest. Once the animal has been stunned, a worker attaches a metal shackle to the animal’s left hind leg, and the animal is lifted off the floor. Another slaughterhouse worker cuts its throat (“sticks” it), severing its carotid arteries. The animal then “bleeds out,” Once it is complete, it is butchered.
Ritual slaughter is somewhat different. Jewish dietary law requires that cattle and other animals be slaughtered in a particular way, called shechita. The animal must be healthy before slaughter, and it must be killed by a trained Jewish male, called a shochet, using a single cut of a sharp knife, called a chalef.
The cut must sever the carotid arteries; in practice, animal anatomy dictates that the cut sever the esophagus and trachea as well. Of course, such a cut is also a part of secular commercial slaughter. The critical difference is that animals slaughtered according to Jewish law cannot be stunned before slaughter; pre stunning is seen as inconsistent with the requirement that the animal be healthy before killing. Muslim dietary law requires a similar method of slaughter, though some Muslim authorities accept pre-slaughter stunning that is temporary, such as electrical stunning (Jones, 2008).
In other developed countries, the same methods of slaughter are used as in the United States. However, in developing countries there may be no pre slaughter stunning, or it may be manual stunning using a sledge hammer.
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