News - June 23, 2011

Scientists confirm: ritual slaughter hurts

Animals suffer pain when they are slaughtered without sedation, claims slaughter expert Bert Lambooij. Not true, say a few Jewish organizations, who even went so far as to take out an injunction against Wageningen UR over the issue. Dutch research organization TNO has come out against the finding too. But the Wageningen scientist is in good company: a European study supports his findings.

Lambooij produced a report in 2008, at the request of the then ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food, after questions about this issue were asked in parliament by the animal rights party. The main conclusion was: 'Ritual slaughter without sedation is detrimental to the animal's wellbeing compared to slaughter with sedation.' He also suggested a number of measures aiming to improve animal wellbeing during the ritual slaughter process.
The gist of the current criticism is that Lambooij has not adequately supported his conclusion with scientific research. Is Lambooij a mediocre researcher with an axe to grind? Or do other researchers agree with him? Since Lambooij is the slaughter expert in the Netherlands, we have to look beyond the borders to answer this question.

Jewish and Islamic researchers
The biggest research group in the field of ritual slaughter is DIALREL, a group of European researchers who want to contribute to the discussion on religious slaughter with knowledge and facts. The main partners in this network come from France, Germany, Spain, Italy, the Netherlands (Bert Lambooij), Turkey and Israel. The latter two members make the project particularly interesting, as it means that Jewish and Islamic researchers are involved as well.
In a DIALREL report of last year, nine researchers (among them Lambooij) concluded that throat cutting without anaesthetic carried the highest risks of animals suffering: 'Pain, suffering and distress during the cut and during bleeding are highly likely.' Sedation methods are admittedly not without risks for animal wellbeing, but they are considerable smaller, claim the researchers. They cite from about 300 scientific articles and base their views on observations by veterinary researchers in slaughterhouses in Germany, Spain, England, France, Belgium, Italy, the Netherlands, Israel and Australia.

Simple language
The researchers do not conclude that slaughter without sedation should be forbidden. They contribute their knowledge to the discussion. Their aim is good religious slaughter practice, which affects animal wellbeing as little as possible. This is not just a matter of sedation or the lack of it. Animals can suffer needlessly on account of faulty equipment or a lack of knowledge and skills among staff. DIALREL therefore argues for carefully formulated standardized procedures. Lambooij made the same suggestion in his literature study for the ministry two years earlier.
So what was wrong with Lambooij's report to the ministry? TNO is bothered by the unscientific, imprecise language Lambooij uses in it. The organization does approve of DIALREL's report, however, because it is expressed in academic language. But this difference is explicable. The aim of Lambooij's report was to explain to policymakers in simple language what the many studies on ritual slaughter and animal wellbeing had to say.
Lambooij's report:
DIALREL's report: