The Opinions of the Ulema on the Permissibility of Stunning Animals
The stunning of animals for halal meat was until recently a non-issue. However, over the past few years many people have mistakenly been informed that stunning animals renders the meat as haram. This is a complete fallacy. As with most things in Islam there are differences of opinion.
The origins of this fallacy originate from a certain halal food authority that has decided not to certify any company that uses meat from stunned animals. On closer inspection of their position it is clear that they are simply implementing this policy as a "caution". They do not state, and can not state, that the meat from stunned animals is haram. This is because it is well documented that meat of stunned animals is completely halal under certain conditions.
Scholars of fiqh, the people who understand, interpret and explain the shariah, are more or less unanimous that the meat of stunned animals is halal. For those that have been informed that stunning somehow is haram or makes the meat haram, they should question why their opinion contradicts that of the fuqaha. The following are just some of many fatwa stating that stunning is halal.
Exerpt of fatwa from the Council for Legal Verdicts at Dar al-Mustafa for Islamic Studies (Yemen).
"Exposing the animal to an electric shock is unlawful in itself. As for the legality of the meat if the situation is as the questioner described - that the animal recovers and returns to its natural state twenty seconds after having been stunned - then it is lawful (halal) even the animal is in a lifeless state at the time of slaughter (such that it cannot see or hear and is unable to move). This is because the shock in itself is not a cause of the animal's death." Read the whole fatwa.
Excerpt from "Animals in Islam" by Al-Hafiz B.A. Masri
"The main counsel of Islam in the slaughter of animals for food is to do it in the least painful manner. All the Islamic laws on the treatment of animals, including the method of slaughter, are based in all conscience on "the spirit" of compassion, fellow-feeling and benevolence:
"Allah, Who is Blessed and Exalted, has prescribed benevolence toward everything and has ordained that everything be done in the right way; so when you must kill a living being, do it in the proper way - when you slaughter an animal, use the best method and sharpen your knife so as to cause as little pain as possible." (The Sahih Mulsim, 2:156. Also Al-Taaj fi Jaami al-Usool, Vol. 3, p. 110, Cairo Edition. Also Al-Faruo min-al-Kafi, p. 2, and others.)
Failure to stun animals before slaughter causes them pain and suffering. Muslims should give serious thought to whether this is cruelty (Al-Muthiah). If so, then surely the meat from them is unlawful (Haram), or at least, undesirable to eat (Makruh).
Al-Azhar University in Cairo appointed a special committee to decide whether the meat of animals slaughtered after stunning was lawful. The committee consisted of representatives of the four acknowledged Schools of Thought in Islam, i.e. Shafii, Hanafi, Maliki and Hanbali. The unanimous verdict (Fatwa) of the committee was:
"Muslim countries, by approving the modern method of slaughtering, have no religious objection in their way. This is lawful as long as the new means are 'shar' (Ahadd) and clean and do 'cause bleeding' (Museelah al-damm). If new means of slaughtering are more quick and sharp, their employment is a more desirable thing. It comes under the saying of the Prophet(s) 'God has ordered us to be kind to everything' (Inna'l-laha Kataba-'l-ihsan 'ala kulle Shay'in)." (The History of Azhar, Cairo; 1964; pp. 361-363)."
To crown all verdicts (Fatawa), here is the 'Recommendation' of a pre-eminent Muslim organization of this century - The Muslim World League (Rabitat al-Alam al-Islami). It was founded in Makkah al-Mukarramah in 1962 A.C. (1382 A.H.) with 55 Muslim theologians (Ulama'a), scientists and leaders on its Constituent Council from all over the world. MWL is a member of the United Nations, UNESCO and the UNICEF. In January 1986 it held a joint meeting with the World Health Organization (WHO) and made the following 'Recommendation' about pre-slaughter stunning (No 3:1. WHO-EM/FOS/1-E, p. 8):
"Pre-slaughter stunning by electric shock, if proven to lessen the animal's suffering, is lawful, provided that it is carried out with the weakest electric current that directly renders the animal unconscious, and that it neither leads to the animal's death nor renders its meat harmful to the consumer."
Egyptian fatwa Committee, December 18th 1978
"If the electro narcosis of the animal or any other anaesthetic procedure helps bleed the animal while weakening its resistance during the bleeding, and if this electro narcosis has no effect on its life (that is to say, if the animal comes back to normal life if the bleeding does not take place) it is allowed to resort to electro narcosis or any other similar type of anaesthetic procedure before the bleeding. The meat of the animal bled in that way is licit"
Sheikh al-Hassan bin Al-Siddiq, president of Belguim's Islamic Coincil of Ulama
"We (the Muslims) do not view 'direct slaughter' (the traditional Islamic method) as being unkind to animals, Nevertheless, Islam does not prohibit pre-stunning when necessary. as long as the animal does not die (from the stunning),"
Sheikh Ahmad Kutty, Islamic scholar at the Islamic Institute of Toronto, Ontario, Canada
"As for stunning the animal, it does not make the animal dead, for it is intended only to knock the animal unconscious so that it does not feel pain and it is brought under control. This itself does not render the animal impure and unlawful unless it is dead before slaughter. My own experience with the slaughterhouses is that they do not make use of animals that are already dead before slaughter. Inspectors, who are appointed by the government (in countries such as Canada), do make sure that this is not the case.
As far as the wisdom of stunning is concerned, it is really in conformity with the wisdom established in the Prophetic hadith in which the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) is reported to have said, "Allah has prescribed excellence and compassion in all things, so when you kill, kill well; when you slaughter, slaughter well, and let him sharpen his knife and spare the animal pain."
In conclusion, we are definitely allowed to partake of such meat, especially if we do not find meat provided by Muslims."
Sheikh Muhammad Al-Mukhtar Ash-Shinqiti, Director of the Islamic Center of South Plains, Lubbock, Texas
"As for the claims by some scholars that a lot of these animals die as a result of being stunned before having their jugular vein slit; I conducted research on this subject and found that these claims are baseless. This is so because the reports by the general inspector of the US Government confirmed that a lot of animals do not get affected by the stunning so when they are slaughtered, they still experience pain.
Muslim scholars who forbid the consumption of beef based their argument on the assumption that stunning kills the animal before their jugular vein is slit. This is not true according to the report released by the general inspector."
Except from The Department of Islamic Development Malaysia's guidelines to halal slaughter
"5.3 STUNNING OF ANIMALS
Stunning of animals prior to slaughter is permitted and shall be in accordance with the requirements below :
5.3.1 Three types of stunners shall be used to stun the animal, namely electrical, mechanical or pneumatic stunner.
5.3.2 The use of the stunning equipment shall be under the control of a Muslim supervisor or a trained Muslim slaughterman or Halal certification authority at all times.
5.3.3 The animal should only be stunned temporarily. The stunning should not either kill or cause permanent injury to the animal.
5.3.4 Gadgets that are used to stun pigs shall not be used to stun animals for Halal slaughter."
If after reading this one still believes that stunning an animal (temporarily) renders meat as inedible for being haram, then this is their choice. However, to call it haram and to tell others it is haram flies in the face of logic, reason, the ulema and Islam.
Allah knows best.