If we are to find the true intentions of the old religious documents/laws and fully understand them to be able to properly apply them centuries later, today, we need to take account of their context.  For example, lazy feminists are often thoroughly wound-up when they read that Paul says, in the New Testament of the Bible, women should not cut their hair short/shave it and should wear a hat in church.  I say ‘lazy’, because if they bothered to research this apparently outrageous guidance, they would find the advice to be entirely reasonable given at that time, a woman cutting their hair short or shaving it, or not wearing a hat would have been regarded as a prostitute.

Nowadays most UK Christian women don’t worry about the length of their hair or whether or not to wear a hat in church because the cultural context has changed – so a woman going to church without a hat would not be regarded by the informed as being disrespectful.  In summary, the advice was right then but irrelevant nowadays – other than all of us, men and women alike, might take on board the general gist of dressing respectfully for church and therefore understanding and respecting reasonable requests not to have too much flesh on show by wearing beachwear when visiting a cathedral or church during a summer holiday.

It is reasonable to assume that when the Halal and Kosher slaughter rules were incorporated into their respective religions, they were likely considered best practice at that time: humans for hygiene reasons especially in hot climates pre-refrigeration, and for the good of animals to minimise animals’ suffering.  The reason, as part of these practices pig was prohibited was because at that time it was impossible to deal with the two neck arteries simultaneously and so minimise suffering for a pig when killing it, as could be done with cattle and sheep which only have one neck artery.

I believe that if only everyone would separate the timeless laudable end aim from the then best means of achieving this hopefully shared aim, there is actually a reasonable, united and harmonious way forward.

The barrier is that everyone tends to irrationally put the cart before the horse, by taking as their starting point the often emotionally highly-charged issue of the means of slaughter, rather than starting with the aim – of minimising animals’ suffering, and then seeking to find common agreement with regard to what is nowadays the best means of achieving the ideal aim of no animal suffering at all.

Technology’, for the want of a better word, has moved on since the introduction of Halal and Kosher practices, and scientific discovery has enabled the development of even better methods of fulfilling the aim of minimising animal suffering.  Thus to continue with Halal and Kosher methods is to inadvertently breach the over-riding spirit of the Halal and Kosher laws’ shared original aim of minimising animals’ suffering.  To draw another Christian parallel, if church ministers for example, followed the letter rather than pragmatically applying the intended spirit (by taking another day off in lieu of Sundays) of God’s commandment to work six days each week and keep the Sabbath Holy, there wouldn’t be anyone to lead church worship!

The Halal/Kosher meat issue now presents Jews and Muslims with a tricky dilemma: if they follow the old prescribed means they are clearly breaching the aim of minimising suffering; and if they wish to fulfil the aim of minimising animal suffering then they cannot follow the old means which have since been improved upon.  They simply cannot have it both ways.

Thus far from being incompatible with the original aims, or showing hostility towards Muslims or Jews, moving on from Halal and Kosher methodologies by legislating to follow best modern animal slaughter practices including requiring all animals slaughtered for food to be fully stunned before killing, is precisely in keeping with the laudable over-riding original aim of Halal and Kosher practices – to minimise animal suffering.  This apparently wouldn’t be hugely different for Halal meat given according to a recent Guardian article, 88% of so-called Halal meat has in fact been pre-stunned prior to the actual killing of the animal, though there appears to be some concern as to how consistently some Halal methodologies used for stunning are fully adequate.

I hope that this pragmatic way of thinking might allow Muslims and Jews to graciously and respectfully let go of outdated dogma and be united with the rest of us in wanting the best for both animals and humans – and thereby be able to satisfy themselves that they are still following the higher aims of their religion.

If we want a harmonious society at ease with itself, there needs to be a pragmatic approach to this sort of issue and where it can be shown that modern practices actually improve the putting into action of the original aim, then surely the expectation of such a compromise is entirely reasonable.

I would just add that levying the arguably subjective accusation of Halal or Kosher practices being barbaric or using other such unnecessarily inflammatory language will simply needlessly anger, predictably, even the most placid and moderate Muslim or Jew and in provoking an understandably extreme defensive emotional reaction make them resistant to any rational discussion about, never mind implementation of change.

Conversely if we UKIPpers can express my suggested line calmly and using what most will consider measured language, I’m hopeful that people will start to agree our point of view is well-reasoned, respectful common sense and feel able to make practical progress without having a guilty conscience with regard to whether or not they are truly following their religion.  I therefore hope that recognising the sensitivities surrounding this issue, feedback and discussion about this article will indeed be in this spirit: after all with freedom of speech comes responsibility in exercising such a valued and privileged liberty.

Photo by Ben Woosley

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