September 19th, 2010: Britain’s Daily Mail reveals that halal meat is being sold on a vast scale and passed on to customers who were unaware of its provenance. The contentious point here is that religious slaughter houses are exempt from otherwise strict laws that require animals to be stunned before they are killed, so as to minimise the possibility of the creature suffering.
When this news emerged, the internet predictably came alive with indignation, not only on account of the manner in which these animals are slaughtered, but also because the many food outlets named by the Daily Mail had not seen fit to inform their customers that they were being sold halal meat. There is of course an argument against the ritual slaughter of animals, so the Daily Mail reports that the RSPCA had spoken out, saying that the public has a right to know how their meat is produced, adding that “The key to a more humane death for these animals is that they are stunned before slaughter.”
The RSPCA were not alone, of course, because the animal rights group Viva! were also quoted as saying “‘Religious freedom does not override other moral considerations and the suffering caused by this form of slaughter is so severe that it cannot be allowed to prevent action being taken.” All this is understandable, but it is not my intention to analyse the case for and against ritual slaughter here, because it’s deserving of a far greater study and discussion.
However, I was astonished to read outraged reactions to this story on the internet’s foremost pro-hunting site, some of which were voiced by a terrierman who has consistently vilified the RSPCA in public, with the full backing of the group’s ‘Admin’ and its 28, 514 members. These people choose to abuse the RSPCA and its many supporters by means of written comments, but they also vocally support the terrierman who post up doctored photographs depicting the RSPCA as violent thugs who are out to spoil their fun.
In all the time I’ve studied the arguments put forward by the pro-hunting lobby, I’ve noticed that logic and reason are invariably absent, while the sheer irony of their adopted position appears to be completely lost on them. I’ve always tried to put myself in the position of those who support fox hunting, so I can certainly see the appeal of congregating with those of like mind, galloping or walking across the countryside, admiring horses and hounds, dressing up in red coats or flat caps, taking in the early morning air, thrilling to the sound of the horn and so forth, even if taking pleasure in watching an animal ripped apart while still alive is completely lost on me.
Nonetheless, I thought I’d try to put myself in the place of a halal slaughterman being confronted by a huntsman, and this was the result of my musings:
Huntsman or terrierman: “I don’t approve of you killing an animal before it’s stunned, because it’s obviously cruel”.
Slaughterman: “Hang on, mate, if I understand you correctly, you and your lot choose to chase an apex predator, something that’s absolutely guaranteed to cause this animal stress and suffering for a kick-off. You do this by breeding dogs for stamina, not speed, so that the suffering is prolonged, and as far as I can see, the fox doesn’t have a hope in hell, because it’s being pursued by as many as 50 men and women on horseback, a pack of dogs and God only knows how many people on foot and in off-road vehicles.
If the fox goes to ground, then you set terriers onto it, which sounds a pretty unpleasant way for an exhausted and terrified animal to meet its death. It can be eaten alive from behind, and it will often face a vicious adversary face to face in confined circumstances from which it has no hope of escape. Not only that, but the terriermen often dig this animal out and bait it to death in a pit by making it face other dogs, or else it’s thrown to the hounds to be ripped apart alive. And if any onlookers or protestors object to this barbarity, then they stand a very good chance of having seven bells kicked out of them by you or your mates, whether the protestors are men or women.
Not only is this animal not officially classed as vermin, but your lot actively go out of their way to breed foxes in artificial earths to make sure there are enough of them for you to hunt. You kill them purely for the perverted pleasure of onlookers, you do everything possible to ensure that they have protracted and agonised deaths, and for good measure, you force your children to attend these hunts and you daub their faces with this tortured creature’s blood as some kind of ‘religious ritual’ afterwards.
And you’re calling ME cruel? My friend, have you ever heard of the expression ‘People in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones?'”
It wasn’t difficult to compose this exchange, if only because it’s so logical and so completely predictable. I am only one of many who disapproves of animals being killed before they’re stunned, so this argument is bound to rage elsewhere, but it won’t help the animals’ cause one little bit if Britain’s huntsmen, huntswomen and terriermen weigh in with crocodile tears about ritual blood-letting.
“But the sporting instinct is due to sheer callousness and insensibility; the sportsman, by force of habit, or by force of hereditary influence, cannot understand or sympathize with the sufferings he causes, and being, in the great majority of instances, a man of slow perception, he naturally finds it much easier to follow the hounds than to follow an argument.”
Henry S. Salt, 1851 – 1939, author of Seventy Years Among Savages.
“The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.”
William Butler Yeats (1865-1939), The Second Coming.