85 (6) pp 368

To slaughter, to sacrifice: the historic background of killing animals for food

‘Slaughter’ and ‘slay’, words of Germanic origin, and ‘beat’ and ‘abattoir’ of Latin descent, all referto a primitive way of rendering animals unconscious, of ‘knocking them out’, before actually killingthem with a knife by cutting the throat or the main blood vessels in the heart region. The situation iscomplicated by religious traditions. Ritual slaughter in the Islamic and Judaic traditions dates back toBiblical times, when Abraham (Ibrahim) was prevented by God (Jahweh, Allah) from offering (sacrificing)his only son, who was replaced on the altar by a ram. In the orthodox Jewish tradition, the killingof animals for food is complicated by a strong taboo against blood. This came to expression in the strictrules for killing the conscious animal with a sharp knife and for avoiding contact with the animal’sblood. In the Christian tradition, the taboos disappeared after the early period because it was realizedthat Jesus, as the Lamb of God, has sacrificed himself in order to save and redeem mankind. The notionof sacrifice is still associated with killing animals for food or other human use. In the biomedicalliterature, the term ‘sacrifice’, originally meaning ‘offer’, is frequently used to designate the killing ofexperimental animals. In four surahs in the Koran, the importance is stressed of offering all animalsbeing put to death for food to the One and Only Allah. The slaughtering technique is not stipulated inany further detail, except for the rule that the animals should not be beaten to death and that the bloodevacuated should not be consumed.

Full text: 
pp 368-377
Veterinary past