Religious texts set down traditional methods of slaughter; simply using a knife to kill the animal. The right to continue using these methods is strongly contested between members of the Jewish and Muslim faiths and animal rights activists.
Opponents of the practice feel that animals should be stunned before slaughter – standard industry practice worldwide – since this makes them unconscious and reduces the pain as they are cut and bled to death.
However, there is no definitive scientific evidence that an animal does not feel pain whilst unconscious. Indeed, a counter argument put forward is that stunning may only stop an animal displaying pain.
While the Jews accept absolutely no stunning, some Muslims have accepted it as long as it can be shown that the animal could be returned to normal living consciousness.
EU legislation grants exceptions from stunning for religious groups, so long as animals are well treated. Proper and good treatment of animals is a basic element of both the Jewish and Muslim religious texts.
Halal meat (following Muslim practice) is produced in much greater quantities than Kosher meat (Jewish) in the EU. In some countries Halal and Kosher meat production seems to be significantly above the requirements of the respective religious populations; some is exported to other Member States.