Halal slaughtering is done according to Islamic Law. This expression of Islamic law with regards to animals is called Dhabihah or Zabiha in Arabic. These rules call for the ritualized slaughtering via throat slitting of animals that have been blessed before Allah. The ritual also calls for the animals to be bled completely dry. Only when this is done can a meat be certified halal.
There are certain prerequisites that need satisfying before halal slaughtering can take place. First, the environment must be correct and must not be tainted with haram, or non-halal, products such as those relating to pigs or haram meat. This is why halal-only abattoirs are usually used for the process. All equipment used to slaughter the animals must also be halal.
First the animal set to be slaughtered must be blessed. At its most basic, this means saying the word for God in Arabic, ‘Allah,’ before the animal is slaughtered. This is because the Islamic holy text, the Quran, states that man should ‘eat not of that on which Allah’s name has not been pronounced.’
Halal slaughtering itself is done via cuts to the jugular veins and also to the carotid arteries of the animal in question. This is done to both cows and sheep, but also to chickens. Any land animal, including birds, that can be eaten under Islamic law must be slaughtered in this fashion. This cut must be administered with a sharp knife and must be done by a son of Adam; meaning someone who is of Muslim, Jewish or Christian faith. The blade doing the cutting must be hidden until the last moment so the animal is not distressed.
The blood must be allowed to completely drain because Islamic law states that meat from halal slaughtering must be free of blood or blood products. For this reason, the animal is allowed to die at its own pace before being strung up so blood can drain. This process takes longer than non-halal methods of slaughtering and may also require more space.
Dhabihah does not apply to seafood, fish, camels and locusts. It does not include pigs either. This applies to fish and other seafood because laws have not been set out on how to kill them. The Quran simply states that all seafood is halal for Muslims, although some disagree. This means the seafood can be killed in any manner.
Halal slaughtering has caused controversy outside of Islamic communities because of perceived animal cruelty. This is because the animal is often conscious when slaughtered and the process itself takes longer and causes more pain for the animal than other methods. While many Muslims believe stunning an animal is haram, it is a process that is increasingly being used to placate animal rights activists.