One of the reasons I started to rear my own meat is that I wanted to be sure what I was eating. Not only that, I wanted to be sure that the animal had been well looked after and that it met a decent end to its life. Last winter I had the rather gruesome experience of following one of my bullocks through the abattoir (see 30th December 2009 for a video of the event – http://www.slow-life.co.uk/2009/12/30/a-kiss-before-dying/) but by the end of it I was reasonably happy that the animal had not suffered unduly. The key to a peaceful end is the fact that the animal is stunned in advance of its being killed- in this way the animal will not suffer any pain. For this reason pre-stunning is a legal requirement in British abattoirs. Unless, that is, you say that God told you to do otherwise. In that case you can get away with slitting the animal’s throat, after which it will remain conscious, screaming, until it drowns in its own blood up to six minutes later. According to the Farm Animal Welfare Council “slaughter without pre-stunning causes very significant pain and distress”.
Woody Allen said that religious rules which govern eating weren’t so much commandments as “advice on how to eat safely in Jerusalem” and its no real business of ours if those who are daft enough to adhere to the dietary requirements of a primitive society keep their habits to themselves. But it’s very much our business if the meat from animals which are killed in this way are routinely supplied to our supermarkets without being labelled as such and without the customer being told. Tesco and others supply this meat as a matter of course and never let on to their customers when they do. They are guilty of many other shameful practices, but this is one of the worst.