We will firstly discuss the Islamic perspective on the act of stunning and thereafter the status of the animal itself which was stunned prior to Zabah as they are two independent issues.
Stunning the animal before it is actually slaughtered is a common practice in many western countries. It was introduced for two main reasons:
1) The false imaginary idea that it is more comforting and causes less pain to the animal.
2) To immobilize the animal to facilitate rapid and swift killing procedures in order to gain more profit and money.
There are many methods used for stunning animals, just to mention a few:-
The Captive Bolt Pistol
This stunning method is widely used for cattle at abattoirs. There are two types of a captive bolt pistol i.e. penetrative and non-penetrative. Penetrative stunners drive a bolt into the skull and cause unconsciousness both through physical brain damage and the concussive blow to the skull. On the other hand, the bolt on a non-penetrative stunner is ‘mushroom-headed’ and impacts on the brain without entering the skull. Unconsciousness is caused by the concussive blow. After the animal is unconscious, it is slaughtered.
The bolt is described as ‘captive’ because it flies out of the barrel but remains attached to the pistol. The pistol is placed on the centre of the animal’s forehead and is either trigger-fired or fires automatically on contact with the animal’s head.
Water bath Stunning
The electric water bath is widely used to stun chickens, turkeys, ducks and geese. Birds are shackled upside down on a moving conveyor, which carries them to an electrified water bath into which their heads are supposed to be immersed. The shackles contact a bar which is connected to the earth.
An animal is stunned by exposing them to a mixture of carbon dioxide and air. This gas causes the animal to lose its consciousness, after which it is slaughtered.
Some of these methods are reversible and others are irreversible. When irreversible methods of stunning are applied, the animal will die if it is not slaughtered within a few minutes. Other methods are reversible in theory and the animal can get up and walk around if not slaughtered in a few minutes.
Islamic Stance on the Act of Stunning:
The common factor in all the afore-mentioned methods of stunning is causing extra pain to the animal. The animal experiences the pangs of death even before its time. It is an utterly pointless method of subjecting the animal to unnecessary cruelty and torture. There is absolutely no scope in Islam for causing the animal this type of distress. This method of slaughtering is against the Sunnah practice and the way prescribed by Sharee’ah. For this reason it is Makroohe Tahrimi (extremely detested, bordering Haram) to adopt this method. Therefore, we must resort to the Islamic, Sunnah methodology and abandon such inhumane traits. We also find clear cut texts in the Fiqh Books that to cause any type of pain to the animal is a detested and abhorred act and has been condemned by Sharee’ah.
Hereunder we will mention some texts of the Fataawa (verdicts) issued by some of our great prominent senior Ulama (Akaabir) regarding the act of pre- slaughter stunning. We will also mention the names of the Ulama who issued these Fataawa and the names of their respected books:
1) Moulana Ashraf Ali Thaanwi rahmatullahi alaih issued a Fatwa on the issue of stunning prior to slaughter. He has stated it to be a forbidden practice.
Imdaadul Fataawaa, Vol: 3, Pg: 605, Maktabah Darul Uloom Karachi Edition
2) Mufti Kifaayatullah rahmatullahi alaih comments on captive bolt stunning as follows: “This practice conflicts with the Sunnah and Islamic teachings. There is the strong possibility of the animal being Haram. That is, if death becomes certain it is futile to cut its throat, and the animal will be Haram”.
Kifaayatul Mufti, Vol: 8, Pg: 277, Maktabah Imdadiyyah Edition
3) Mufti Mahmood Hasan Gangohi rahmatullahi alaih has described the practice of stunning to be contradictory to the established Sunnah method and Makroohe Tahreemi. He says that this is putting the animal in the state of death before the actual time of death because of which even a large portion of the animals blood also gets dried up and the meat loses all its nutrients and the meat no more tastes tasty. There is no scope in Sharee’ah to give such pain to an animal.
Fataawaa Mahmoodiyyah, Vol: 26, Pg: 156, Maktabah Mahmodiyyah Edition
4) Mufti Abdur Raheem Laajpuri rahmatullahi alaih has described the practice of stunning to control the animal using the captive bolt method as “extremely Makrooh”.
Fataawa Raheemiyyah, Vol: 10, Pg: 67, Darul Isha’at Edition
5) Moulana Yusuf Ludhyaanwi rahmatullahi alaih comments on stunning as follows: “This method of slaughter is incorrect. If there had been any relief for the animal in striking the head and Allah had preferred this method, then the Messenger of Allah himself would have taught this method. Those persons who have devised this method are essentially trying to prove themselves cleverer than Rasoolullah sallallahu alaihi wasallam. If this method is prevalent in Pakistan or any other Muslim country, it should be stopped immediately.”
Aap Ke Masaail Aur Unka Hul, Vol: 5, Pg: 452, Maktabah Ludhyaanwi Edition
6) Mufti Muhammed Taqi Uthmani (D.B.) states: “If the stunning can lead to death of animal, then it is not permissible to stun.
Buhooth Fi Qadhaya Fiqhiyya Mua’sara, Vol: 2, Pg: 54, Maktabah Darul Uloom Karachi Edition
Please note: The discussion thus far was in connection to the act of stunning only. Now we will discuss the status of animal that is stunned prior to slaughter. As your query pertains to beef, the procedure generally adopted for cattle nowadays at most abattoirs is the captive-bolt stunning method which is irreversible. Our subsequent discussion will thus primarily focus on cattle that are stunned using this method.
Legal Status of Cattle Stunned Prior to Zabah/Slaughter
Stunning is an unacceptable action and the person who stuns will be sinful for causing extra pain to the cattle. However, the impermissibility of the act of stunning does not influence the lawfulness of the cattle which was stunned and does not necessarily mean that all stunned cattle are Haraam/unlawful to consume. The legal status of the cattle that was stunned (by Muslim or Non-Muslim) is dependent on whether it was alive at the time of slaughter. If the animal was indeed alive at the time of a proper Halaal slaughter, then the meat of such an animal will be Halaal to consume.
On the other hand, if it is established that the animal was indeed dead at the time of slaughter, such an animal will be Haraam to consume despite the fact that it was slaughtered in accordance to Islamic law.
If we deeply think and ponder in this matter, we will come to a conclusion that there is a great doubt in the pre-slaughtered stunned cattle (that are stunned by the captive-bolt method), that was it actually alive or dead before slaughtering!!!
Since the legal status of the stunned cattle is dependent on it being alive at the time of slaughter, there is a need to establish that it was alive at the time of slaughter. Listed below are some signs which have been derived from Fiqhi texts that can be taken as proof of it being alive at the time of slaughter:
1) Normal, excessive bleeding at the time of slaughter.
2) Closing its mouth or eyes
3) Pulling together its legs
4) Extreme movement of any kind
In conclusion, if the cattle was still alive at the time of slaughtering due to which the blood gushed out forcefully and the animal shuddered (as is the case when slaughtering an animal without the stunning method) then the meat will be Halaal. Otherwise, the animal will be considered dead and the meat Haraam.
Words of advice
We should try our best to consume meat which was not stunned and support businesses who supply un-stunned Halal meat. There are numerous advantages to un-stunned meat including complete drainage of blood, better consistency of the meat, more retention of nutrients and most importantly, no fear of the animal dying due to the stunning. It is better to consume something which is 100% Halaal than consuming something in which a person has doubt. It comes in a Hadeeth of our beloved Nabi sallallahu alaihi wasallam:
Translation: Hazrat Abu Hawrah rahmatullahi alaih narrates that I enquired from Hazrat Hasan Bin Ali radhiallahu anhu that what did you acquire from Rasoolullah sallallahu alaihi wasallam? He replied that I acquired this Hadeeth from Rasoolullah sallallahu alaihi wasallam:
“Leave out that thing which puts you in doubt for that thing which does not put you in doubt; and that speaking the truth gives satisfaction and speaking lies destroys a person”
Jaamiut-Tirmidhi 4/322 – Nashrus-Sunnah
From the aforegoing discussion on captive-bolt stunning, it is evident that some doubt remains with regard to the consumption of the meat of cattle that is stunned using this method. Hence we commend your stance up to now of abstaining from consuming beef that has been acquired from cattle that are stunned in this way. If you wish to consume beef, then you should acquire it from a farm or other sources that do not deploy the captive bolt stunning method but rather implement the normal procedure of Islamic slaughter.