VEGA News Item

Slaughter, beheading and loss of consciousness - 31/03/2004
Our answer to the question: For how long, after beheading, is consciousness maintained? (Q & A, The Times)
A. In research into commercial methods of rendering livestock “instantaneously” insentient during the process of stunning, sticking, and bleeding out in the production of meat I came across evidence that sticking and subsequent bleeding out (i.e. throat cutting, with severance of the main blood vessels and nerves but without a prior attempt at stunning, as in Jewish and Muslim rituals, or after an inept blow) and beheading (as Sikhs required in their custom or jatka, but now abandoned in the UK) did not lead to immediate loss of feeling and pain (as assessed by the eye flick response). A video from research in New Zealand of a severed sheep’s head displayed signs of consciousness some seconds after the cut (muscles in the body may continue to twitch involuntarily for sometime and death may supervene only after some minutes of bleeding out).

This line of experimentation was discontinued as exceptionally cruel, but subsequent work on animals anaesthetised before the cut confirmed that sticking and bleeding alone were not enough to halt brain activity rapidly. The physiology of the circulation of blood in the head and drainage, as well as the reflex closure of the vessels and the rupture and breakage of the bones, differ from species to species, but sticking and bleeding out of animals (e.g. as euthanasia of pets and other favoured species) have been abandoned; and the government appointed Farm Animal Welfare Council and the British Veterinary Association exercising the principles of precaution and mercy, demand a ban on Jewish and Muslim procedures and the like for killing for meat (kosher and halal), the origin if which may not be disclosed on the product.

Alan Long
Hon Research Advisor
VEGA (Vegetarian Economy and Green Agriculture)

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