Live cattle exports from Down Under to Egypt resume–new fatwa may help

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, June 2008:

CAIRO, CANBERRA–Austral-ian agriculture
minister Tony Burke on May 9, 2008 authorized
resumption of live cattle exports to Egypt.
Previous agriculture minister Peter
McGuarin on February 26, 2006 suspended cattle
exports to Egypt, after the Australian edition
of the television magazine show 60 Minutes aired
video of abuses at the Bassetin slaughterhouse
near Cairo.
Taken in January 2006 by Animals
Australia investigator Lyn White, the video
showed workers poking out the eyes of cattle and
cutting their leg tendons before subjecting them
to a version of hallal slaughter that clearly
flunked the goal of the animals not suffering.

The procedures were immediately denounced by
Australian Federation of Islamic Councils hallal
certification representative Munir Hussain.
“Australian cattle will only be imported
to Egypt into the new state-of-the-art feedlot
and processing facility in Ain Sokhna,” Burke
told Australian Broadcasting Corporat-ion
reporter Jane Bardon. “They will be handled and
slaughtered in accordance with international
standards for animal welfare.”
Added Bardon, “Burke says a memorandum
of understanding to be signed on live animal
export welfare with Egypt will ‘require
monitoring and recording the movements of
Australian dairy cattle. Australian officials
and industry assessed the Ain Sokhna facility and
were satisfied it was consistent with World
Organization for Animal Health guidelines for
animal welfare. Cattle will not be permitted to
be moved to other Egyptian abattoirs or feedlots.”
Responded Royal SPCA of Australia
scientific officer for farm animals Melina
Tensen, “The standards in Middle Eastern
abattoirs and also in this new Egyptian abattoir
are nowhere near the standards of slaughter here
in Australia. For example, animals are not
stunned in the Middle East, nor are they going
to be stunned in this abattoir in Egypt, as far
as we understand.”
Pre-stunning is not traditionally part of
hallal and kosher slaughter, which are done by
millenias-old procedures originally meant to
reduce animal suffering at slaughter as much as
possible with Bronze Age technology. Some
religious authorities have declared that
pre-stunning is permitted under the kosher
slaughter laws proclaimed by Moses and the hallal
slaughter laws proclaimed by Moham-med, but the
topic is still under intense debate.
However, Muhammad Sayyid Tantawi, the
Chief Imam and Shaikh of al-Azhar, Egypt, on
April 24, 2008 issued a fatwa, or religious
opinion, intended to reinforce observance of the
intent of the hallal slaughter laws, regardless
of the enforcement or non-enforcement of any
applicable civil laws.
“Ahmed el-Sherbiny, lawyer before the
Court of Cassation and chair of the Egyptian
Society for Animal Friends, has presented a
letter that includes a request for a legal
opinion on two matters,” Tantawi opened. “The
first matter deals with those people who torture
an animal at slaughter by committing acts that
are contradictory with treatment with mercy. The
second matter deals with long-distance transport
of animals from one country to another by means
that do not provide for the animal’s safety or
kind treatment,” described in detail, Tantawi
mentioned, in el-Sherbiny’s request for the
“Islamic law requires that an animal at
the time of slaughter must be treated with
kindness and with procedures that guarantee
mercy,” Tantawi affirmed. “Fulfilling this
order requires doing everything that makes the
animal comfortable at the time of slaughterÅ Many
authenticated sayings of the Prophet show the
prohibition on undertaking to sharpen or hone the
instrument of slaughter in front of the animal to
be slaughtered.” For example, Tantawi wrote,
“The Prophet saw a man sharpening his knife in
front of the animal who was to be slaughtered,
and the Prophet forbade that, and said to the
man: ‘Do you want to slaughter the animal
twice–once by sharpening the knife in front of
the animal, and the second time by cutting its
“Imam Ali also forbade slaughtering a
sheep in front of another sheep or any other
animal,” Tantawi mentioned, “so that the
animal’s perceptions are not harmed at the last
moment of its life.
“Any action incompatible with kindness to
animals or treating them any way other than with
mercy at the time of slaughter is forbidden and
sinful, and is inconsistent with the kindness to
animals that Islam requires,” Tantawi emphasized.
“With regard to the second question,”
Tantawi continued, “we advise that Islam’s call
for kindness to animals and for treating them
with mercy applies to all situations. This
includes transporting animals. Transport must be
done in a way that is comfortable and ensures the
animal’s safety. The means of transport must
protect against causing pain to the animal, any
threat to the life of the animal, or infection
of the animal with diseases contagious to humans
or others.
“This rule is inferred from the saying of
the Prophet that ‘Humans have the chance to
perform a charitable act in their treatment of
every living being.’ And also in his saying, ‘A
woman went to hell because of a cat that she had
confined without leaving it any food, or
allowing the cat access to bugs or fruits of the
earth to eat.’ These two sayings of the Prophet,
and others like them,” Tantawi wrote, “show
that the treatment of animals must be based upon
the principle of mercy in every situation,
including in transport.”
Said el-Sherbiny, “We believe that this
fatwa could make a huge difference in the
treatment of animals in slaughterhouses and
animal transportation throughout the Islamic
world, if it receives adequate exposure.”
The fatwa was distributed in Arabic two
weeks before el-Sherbiny released the first
official English translation.
On May 8, 2008, the same day that
el-Sherbiny released the translation, one day
before Burke lifted the Australian cattle export
ban, Animals Australia executive director Glenys
Oogjes reported the permanent closure of a small
slaughterhouse in Amman, the capital of Jordan,
where Animals Australia investigator White had
videotaped workers beating a bull with a bar to
force him into the killing room.
“Overnight last night we learnt that,
after months of lobbying, that terrible place
has been closed permanently,” Oogjes e-mailed,
“due to the horrific video finally being shown to
the right people. It had been sent to them
immediately–but they did not want to watch it,
it seems. In addition to closing the place, the
Mayor of Amman has said that he will support
workshops to train other butchers in his area,
and will contact the government minister who can
influence other cities and towns to take similar
steps to improve the conduct of abattoirs.
“The breakthrough occurred,” Oogjes
said, “as a result of a considered strategy to
bring into play the influence of the Jordanian
Royal Family. Our newly formed Action Network
writing groups were asked to write to Queen Rania
of Jordan through her website and provide her
with the link to the footage, and then to write
to the Mayor of Amman to alert him that they had
appealed to Queen Rania.
“We received an e-mail yesterday from the
Jordanian king’s sister advising us that the
slaugherhouse had been closed,” Oogjes
continued. “She was immensely grateful for the
emails from Australia, and armed with our
footage. stormed into the offices of the Mayor
and forced him and other staff to watch it. She
is to remain personally involved to ensure that
the promised further actions go forward. To
that end we are in contact with Compassion in
World Farming, the World Society for the
Protection of Animals, and the Marchig
Trust–who funded that particular Animals
Australia investigation–to assist with training,
expertise and funding.”
But Oogjes and WSPA were frustrated on
May 21, 2008, when the Animal Transport
Association honored the animal transport firm
Livecorp at its annual conference in Dresden,
while refusing to allow WSPA to show video of
abuses in live transport.
“The WSPA film includes segments of
Animals Australia footage of Australian sheep
exported to the Middle East,” said an Animals
Australia press release. “WSPA is a full member
of Animal Transport Association, and had
submitted their film three months ago–but was
advised just just prior to the conference that
the association believed the film was not an
accurate portrayal of the livestock transport

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