Modern Farming practices; Animal Welfare and Tayyib

08 Jun

Taking into consideration the conditions outlined within the Quran and Hadith regarding Animal Welfare and the need to consume Halal and Tayyib foods, evaluation of modern farming practices needs to be considered if they comply with the ethical needs prescribed within Islam in order to supply the Halal meat industry.

The majority of meat products are Halal, as a subject, with the exception of Pork and Gelatine from Non- Halal animal sources (Anil et al 2010), however the methods and processes used to transform raw ingredients inclusive of live animals into food are often non-Tayyib in nature (Alzeer et al 2018).

Examples of these processes would be; Chickens, Turkeys, Sheep, Cattle and Fish. All of these animals are Halal to consume as meat products or the by products from them such as milk. Vast quantities of livestock are also transported via live shipping transport from the UK to supply other Halal markets around the world. However Animal Welfare and Tayyib is compromised against the teachings of Islam in the way they are housed, transported, handled and used within production.

Tayyib discussion concerning Chickens

Within intensive chicken farms the conditions of Tayyib and the guidance from Quran and Hadith can become compromised due to overcrowded environments which are barren except for water and food stations without natural light which has an affect mental and emotional health (Bao et al; 2014), although new higher welfare sheds allow windows for a natural light source and straw bales for enrichment (Jones, 2004), Fast-growing broilers have a decreased observation of displaying natural behaviours (Bokkers and Koene, 2003) as well as the  rapid growth of the birds which can result health issues (Julian, 1998) such as cardiovascular and respiratory issues, increased levels of fatigue is observed among broilers resulting in less energy for exercise. The exact figure is unknown but it is estimated millions of chickens in the UK die in their sheds from heart attacks or sudden death syndrome each year. Crowding is the most likely cause of less hygienic surroundings due to litter used on the floor to absorb droppings but the sheds not being fully cleaned out until the next batch which results in the air becoming highly polluted with ammonia from the droppings (Briggs, 2004) this has a profound effect on heat stress and foul litter odour. Extended periods among dirty litter causes high levels of ammonia which can cause eyes and respiratory system issues as well as burns on the birds chests and feet known as hock burn (Kristenten and Wathes, 2007). Before slaughter, Chickens often incur injuries and stress is often suffered during handling, transport via lorry and during the slaughter process (Nicol and Scott, 1990). It is estimated over 1 million chickens per year are already deceased by arrival time at UK slaughterhouses (FSA, 2017) under Halal requirements animals are not permitted to be dead before the point of slaughter (Holy Quran, Surah Al- Baqarah 2:173)

“He hath forbidden you only carrion, and blood, and swine flesh, and that on which hath been invoked any other name besides Allah’s……..” 

Modern commercial hens have been bred specifically to produce large numbers of eggs for meet supply and demand for consumers. This depletes the hen’s store of calcium as well as movement restriction can result in high levels of osteoporosis and fractures (Flemming and Whitehead, 2000).

Layer hen cages are placed within several tiers and contain crowded conditions which make health and welfare assessments difficult for the poultry managers (Ardnt et al; 2017), in large cage sheds injured or unwell birds may often be overlooked and die unnoticed. Layer hens often lose a large proportion of their feathers due to damage from rubbing the sides of the cage and pecking from other hens (Diagle, 2017). To prevent feather pecking the process of beak trimming takes place. While beak trimming with a blade became illegal in the UK in 2011but after implemented in 2016 (Gov UK 2015), this technique, along with beak trimming with a specialized infrared light, remains legal in the US. Infrared beak trimming may be less painful than blade trimming, although blade trimming is more common, within the UK animal mutilations are prohibited unless deemed necessary by a veterinary professional (UK GOV, 2007). Even though it is often claimed that confined animals are better protected from infection such as pathogens and disease from wildlife (Barasona et al, 2014), a survey by the European Food Safety Authority concluded that eggs produced within cages have an increased chance of containing Salmonella (Ross and Whiley, 2015).

With regards to Male chicks; Every year, the egg industry disposes of in the region of 4-6 billion male chicks as they do not lay eggs and are not deems suitable for meat production. Up until recently Male chicks were shredded, which is banned in the UK and recently other countries are enforcing new legislation banning this process, instead they are commonly gassed unless being used for reptile feed.

New livestock technology has now discovered a way to check the sex of an egg before the chick hatches, which allows the use of the male egg for other products preventing animal suffering. The sex of a chick can be determined before it ever hatches. So those eggs that would have hatched male chicks can be processed into other products, such as animal feed, before they ever crack open (Flemming, 2016).

The test involves checking the eggs for a chemical marker inside the shells with almost 99% accuracy to determine the sex of the embryo. Eggs carrying female chicks typically have a greater number of hormones floating around inside (Purdy, 2018).  Although In-egg sexing is not allowed in Islam for Humans, this new technology is something which should be discussed as a Tayyib concept for the egg as a Halal product as it greatly reduces animal suffering and waste.

Tayyib discussion concerning Turkeys

Turkeys have been selectively bred over time to achieve heavier body weight over a short period and have abnormally large breast muscles. This has led to various health problems including painful leg disorders and body system failures similar to those experienced with broiler production (Eramus, 2018).

Selective breeding has altered the natural behaviour of the wild turkey, they no longer have the ability to fly and often experience difficulty walking and mating naturally due to their body weight (Bender et al., 2007), instead females are usually artificially inseminated (Baskt and Dymond, 2012).

Similarly to Broiler production, overstocked barns results in birds have difficulty moving to avoid aggressive individuals which may cause injury and stress. Accelerated deterioration of environment due to dampening of litter from waste which releases ammonia into the air and causes birds to suffer from painful skin and foot sores and eye and respiratory problems. Poor ventilation and high stocking densities can lead to very high temperatures within the housing environment leading to discomfort and heat stress.

The pre-slaughter period for Turkeys causes welfare concern, the birds often suffer broken legs and wings from rough handling, crating and transportation to the slaughterhouse due to their size , once they reach the slaughter house Turkeys can experience further bone fractures of dislocations when being shackled for stunning (Bicout et al; 2019). UK law allows for Turkeys to be hung for up to 3 minutes before stunning, in other countries this may be longer (UK GOV, 2018). Due to their size if a Turkey flaps while on the shackle line they may come in contact with the electrified bath before their heads enter the water, causing painful electric shocks (Raj and Sheilds, 2009).

Tayyib discussion concerning Sheep

In the UK sheep are predominantly farmed extensively, however some are still intensively reared. Lower welfare sheep farming systems guidance from the Quran and Hadith may be compromised under conditions such as mutilations, high lamb mortality rates, and long distance transport to slaughter or live export which can last for days within cramped conditions.

Lambs are routinely subjected to painful mutilations, the Farm Animal Welfare Council (FAWC) states that castration and tail docking of lambs extenuating circumstances. Many male lambs are castrated to prevent unwanted breeding, aid fattening and reduce aggression undertaken by applying a tight ring, clamp or surgery. This is usually carried out without anaesthetic and studies have shown this causes pain to the animal (Llonch et al; 2017).

Other common mutilations for lambs include to tail docking to prevent the accumulation of faeces around the tail and reduce lesions and infections such as fly strike. However, evidence shows that tail-docking is not necessary to maintain the health and welfare of lambs (Lean et al; 2008).

Many ewes die during winter and spring because of poor body reserves to cope with winter and inadequate grazing. Many lambs are aborted or stillborn or die through disease, exposure and starvation. Multiple births are common in many modern sheep breeds to increase production and often result in problems for the ewe such as abortions, still born and delivery problems such as prolapse, pregnancy toxaemia and mastitis. These issues increase the chance of more vulnerable lambs. In the UK, as many as 15% of lambs do not survive (AHDB, 2019).

Tayyib discussion concerning Cattle and Veal (Beef and Dairy)

Milk production and meat demand for both sheep and cows has many animal welfare concerns due to breeding strategies which affect both mental and physical states of the animals (FAWC, 2012).With in intensive dairy farms guidance from the Quran and Hadith are compromised  by periods of confinement in indoor housing, health problems due to demand for higher milk yields and distress caused by early separation from their calves, new incentives are now trying keeping calves with their mothers within dairy farming to minimise emotional distress (Barth et al; 2016).

Over the last fifty years, dairy farming has become more intensive to increase the amount of milk produced by each cow. The Holstein-Friesian, the most common type of dairy cow in the UK, Europe and the USA, has been bred to produce very high yields of milk. Milk production per cow has more than doubled in the past 40 years (Algers and Oltenacu, 2005). An average of 22 litres per day is typical in the UK, with some cows producing up to 60 litres in a day during peak lactation (Roche, 2019). Given a natural healthy life, cows can live for twenty years or more, however High-yielding dairy cows will typically be slaughtered after three or four lactations because their milk production drops and/or they are chronically lame or infertile.

The majority of dairy cows will spend a considerable amount of their life indoors, Cows that are housed for long periods of time are more likely to develop mastitis than those kept at pasture. Cows need access to pasture with plenty of space and opportunity to graze. This is important for their physical and mental well-being, and their ability to perform natural behaviours (Charlton and Rutter, 2017). Some dairy farming systems do not allow access to pasture known as ‘zero grazing’, and is increasingly used for large and high-yielding herds worldwide. In the UK most dairy cows still have daytime access to grazing on pasture in summer, but more cows are being kept indoors for longer, or even all year round.

Cattle are ruminants that naturally graze or browse on grasses and other vegetation, therefore they require lots of fibre in their diet (Kung, 2014). However, dairy cows that produce high yields of milk require more nutrient-dense diets, so are fed more concentrates and less forage. This leads to a build-up of acids in the rumen which, if occurring for prolonged periods each day, causes acidosis. Cows with acidosis often have diarrhoea and can develop laminitis.

Suitable housing design and management are essential for good welfare. Crowded conditions, poor ventilation and high humidity increase the injury and disease (Madzingira, 2017). Having the opportunity to rest is very important to cows, especially during lactation, requiring the need for somewhere comfortable to lie down. Cows that are kept on concrete floors with inadequate bedding, or in housing with poorly designed cubicles, will be more likely to develop mastitis and reduce milk yields (Clark, 2013). Hard flooring is also more painful for lame cows to stand and walk on, and cows may slip and injure themselves if floors are wet from excrement.

Cow infertility is a major productivity problem for farmers with high-yielding dairy cows. It can be caused by nutritional deficiencies, stress and poor body condition, therefore it is often a sign of poor welfare. Holstein Frisians as an example struggle to return to oestrus after high lactation periods (Ferris et al; 2014). Some cows are kept in tie-stalls, which involve severe confinement for up to 24 hours a day. Tie-stalls restrict every aspect of cows’ behaviour; they are unable to socialise, exercise and may even be unable to turn and scratch themselves (Borda et al; 2013).

Calves raised for White Veal attract welfare concerns, the calves are fed on low iron milk and have restricted exercise to maintain a pale colour of meat, and this can cause physiological, physiological and mental distress to the animal (Andreoli et al; 1999).

Tayyib discussion concerning Fish

Within intensive fish farms guidance from Quran and Hadith are compromised by overcrowding in poor conditions, starvation, and slaughter methods which are considered inhumane. Although Islam does not specify the conditions of slaughter for Fish as there is for Mammal and Poultry unnecessary animal suffering should be prevented as prescribed in the Hadith Muslim 1955 “Allah has prescribed proficiency in all things, so if you kill, kill well, and if you slaughter, slaughter well….” 

The behavioural requirements of most of the fish species used in aquaculture are poorly understood (FOA, 2019). It is unlikely that the conditions in intensive farming meet even the basic needs of fish as a result of rearing fish in cages their natural swimming behaviour is supressed.

 Intensive fish farms house fish in large numbers within smaller areas than they would like within the wild which can cause serious welfare problems (Butterworth, 2018), for example Salmon grow to around 75cm long, but will only be given the space equivalent of a bathtub of water each. Salmon are migratory, and would naturally swim great distances at sea. Instead, they swim in circles around the cage, rubbing against the mesh and each other. In overcrowded conditions fish are more susceptible to disease and suffer higher stress levels, aggression, and physical injuries such as fin damage (Cooke, 2016). High stocking densities also decrease water quality, reducing the levels of oxygen the fish have to breathe (Abdel et al; 2014). The process of de- licing farmed fish has also been brought into question and the attention of the Scottish government on animal welfare grounds due to the use of a Thermolicer machine which causes significant unrest for the fish.

Fish are slaughtered by a range of methods. Methods such as gassing with carbon dioxide or cutting the gills without stunning studies have shown to cause suffering to the fish (Yue n.d.). In some cases fish are simply left to suffocate in air or on ice, or processed while still alive.

Organic standards for fish farming, such as those set by the Soil Association, improve the welfare of farmed fish however, contrary to organic standards for other animals, fish may still be confined in cages but with the benefit of more space requirement for the freedom of movement encouraging natural behaviours and are slaughtered using more humane methods such as such as electrical stunning or a strike to the head (Soil Association, 2020). 

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