Ever Had a Decent Joint of French Beef?

The worst meal I've had in my life (and that's saying something) was in Montelimar a few years ago. Stopped at a restaurant where people who were obviously local were eating out on the patio. Good sign. We joined them. The meal arrived and the lamb was uneatable - tough and riddled with sinews I'd never seen before. And the waitress was a surly old biddy. The other diners were having a great time. Must have ordered something different. Didn't leave a tip. Apparently they know thing or two about nougat, though.

Alan. I'm not debating religion here, just the methods of killing animals for food although I do find it weird that you can categorically state they feel no pain when their throat is cut. How do you know? If they could talk before they surely can't after their throat is slashed. Are you now saying that the "religious law" dictating live throat cutting is a cop out & other than draining the animal, which could just as well be achieved after it was stunned, achieves nothing other than making the slaughterer feel better? I get the bit about abattoirs & the stress they can cause but mass production Halal killing surely can't be any better. Regarding your last paragraph maybe I'm thick but if there is a question there I'm blowed if I can understand it:-)

Vic, firstly animals do not lay down and die, but become unconscious before the onset of pain. Humans tend to as well if losing a lot of blood.

Re the knife and feeding and making the animal comfortable. Such a religious law was probably designed to reassure the killer that they were being'kind' to the animal. More generally Hal hal and Kosher are about food cleanliness in a primitive period of history. Hence not eating carnivorous animals or fish. Both Kosher and Hal hal are designed to drain blood, and therefore, it is thought impurities from the body.

My interest in religion stems from the question, 'Why do people do religion' not a faith position. I just accept that some people believe in things I do not, it is not for me to attack someone's faith.

Yes, Alan I know religion too from the position of a social anthropologist and agree entirely. I eat meat, very little actually and very 'controlled' and there are things I will not touch for my own reasons. However I have no problem with halal and kosher and have seen the former slaughter of sheep and eaten it later a few times. I also spent 12 years as a vegetarian whereby I ate only animal produce from living animals, so took no fish or fowl either, no eggs, and only cheeses, yoghurt and so on that contained non-animal rennet. I am now a meat eater who can spend long periods without meat without missing it. It is choice rather than any argument in either direction and for neither religions nor any other principled stance.

As for pain, historically the suicides by bleeding you refer to are also quite right. However, the human external carotid artery carries blood from aortic arch and brachiocephalic artery to the brain stem. As oxygen starvation to the human brain begins it stimulates a sense of well being that stops the inhibitors that prevent us from panicking, so adrenalin flows and a 'panic' reaction sets in whereby a cut throat promotes both a strong will to survive and pain. Thus cutting ones own throat will be a horrible death very often. It is an inherent part of human intellect we call the will to survive. In societies where people commit suicide ritually, it is normally arteries on the lower forearm (ideally not wrists) or thighs. In water there is no scabbing and healing and the heart slowly stops beating as it is starved rather than the brain stem being starved of oxygen. We are simply differently made to most, but not all, other mammals except our fellow primates.

I dislike hunting on horses for the attitude of many of the people who hunt having lived (when I was there) roughly 30 years in a village with a hunt. I am not keen on any animal being torn apart myself. Shooting is no problem although I know many animals die of wounds but actually the shock of being shot dulls the senses. As for pain, when I broke my shoulder two years ago, the ball (humeral head) was broken clean off the humerus and the ball also pulled out of the scapula. I felt no pain until days after being operated on. At the time I just wondered why my arm was dangling uselessly. We have several inhibitors that mask pain that kick in and whether we call it shock or whatever in fact one might often say that pain does not hurt.

What we cannot do is look inside an animal's mind to see if it has any equivalent of the human intellect that tells us to survive. That is an ethical question I guess we all have to live with if we eat meat.

Excellent article Bernadette...and explains much!

It isn't illegal - we hang ours for three weeks, much more than the usual handful of days. You just have to work with your butcher.

Unfortunately not :)

As you have written it, it reads like a direct attack on Vero the person rather than her post and as such contravenes our Netiquette guidelines.

Presumably Simon you mean Veronique's comments remind you of the time bla bla bla rather than Veronique herself?

Are you really saying that an animal that has it's throat slashed to cut through the carotid artery, jugular vein, oesophagus and trachea feels little or no pain!? What a ridiculous suggestion. Have you ever seen this performed? It's barbaric and cruel. Happy to share a gruesome video if you wish.

Oh, and please don't suggest I am either ill-informed or susceptible to propaganda. How insulting.

Yeah right! Maybe Ok as a one off & I'm not arguing that a piggy wiggy destined for a blokes nosh wouldn't be treated well as part of the ritual but come on Tracy, they aint all treated like somebodies pet!

Excellent article today which Ive just read. Definitely food for thought.


Alan, so are you saying that animals who have had their throat cut simply lie down & welcome death without any sign of panic or distress or is there a difference between a human who has chosen this method of death & an animal who is forcibly killed this way? I'm also confused as to the reason the knife being kept out of sight. Did these clever animals destined for slaughter actually recognise a knife & realise the significance of it? I've just shown my pooch a knife & it said the doggy equivalent of "So" Two final questions :- What has religion got to do with the way an animal is slaughtered? they still end up on somebodies plate & all of the religions can't be right! & , What has hunting got to do with the point in question?

Before you ask let me state that I am a meat eating hypocrite who kills his own eating chooks but draws the line at killing his old laying ones because they aren't as productive as they should be. I don't pretend to know the best way to kill my next burger but do have a problem when I'm told it was killed in a way somebodies "religion" said was OK.

Great comments Alan! My husband went to a local pig killing last year (men only event!) and he said that the way the butcher walked up to the pig, feeding it and stroking it till the last minute was amazing. No way was it a stressed pig, it was a pig that had been loved, fed and cared for right up till its final minutes. And it tasted very good :-)

Mandy, I am so shocked that you, and maybe many others are so badly informed. Firstly, perhaps I should say why I feel qualified to challenge your view.

As a soldier (musician/para medic) in N. Ireland in the early 1970s I knew many people who were injured and lost blood, myself included. All reported, not feeling pain until sometime after the injury. The first impression was one of shock and numbness. No reason to think that animals losing blood will be any different.

After the army I became a sociologist of religion and also lectured in Religious Studies, mostly Islam. Both Judaism and Islam lay down strict rules as to slaughter, this includes feeding the animal, providing water and keeping the blade out of sight of the animal until moment of slaughter. All of this is intended to reduce stress in the animal. I will not bore you with Biblical and Qu'ranic references, but can provide them if interested.

I keep sheep and take about fifteen lambs a year to the abattoir. The animals there certainly show signs of stress and fear, and more often than not have no food and little water. You are correct to say that fear releases adrenalin (but this results in muscles contracting and thereby making the meat tough). The release of adrenalin is common to all animals, including humans. The old flight or fight quandary. But it is more present in the abattoir and in the hunting field, than in Religious Ritual Slaughter: and I have seen Hal hal in Tunisia, Istanbul and Leicester, beside lambs being slaughtered in this manner here in France.

Let us approach this another way. During the period of the Roman Empire, Romans who wanted to commit suicide in a relatively painless manner,sat in a bath and opened their veins, thereby bleeding to death. Likewise the Jews who were besieged at Mazada by the Romans chose to commit suicide rather than surrender. This they did by asking the Kosher butchers in the community to show them the secret of opening the veins and bleeding to death. Both Jews and Romans knew that bleeding to death was effective and virtually painless.

I am afraid that you, and many other well intentioned people who care about animal welfare, have swallowed a lot of propaganda which has its roots in anti semetic and antic Islamic racism.

Finally, as I an my wife are just about to start marking GCSE Religious Studies papers, here is an ethics question to test the brain of those non veggie, animal welfare people who attack hunting. . . A cow or a lamb in a field has no chance to escape slaughter, but hunters can miss their prey which will escape. Is it more ethical to hunt or go to the butchers?

I am perfectly happy with traditional British or French butchery, but prefer small scale operations and local products. What I don't like is being fed Halal or Kosher without the choice or without being told. I am informed that some traditional non Halal butchers in markets in Paris and similar cities have been obliged to cease trading as passing persons have spat on pork meat. If people want Halal or Kosher that's fine. There's a rumour that all Quick hamburgers are Halal. It may be easier for producers to just sell one type of product but surely the non Halal or non Kosher customers should be given the clear option rather tan passing it off on the QT. I have heard that all NZlamb is Halal- anybody know anymore? Apparently McDo have a tiny proportion of real beef in their burgers.

Happily I have never been present when an animal has been slaughtered. I already struggle with the concept of eating meat because of the welfare issues and I imagine this would just turn me into a vegetarian. I have seen enough on TV and read enough about it to understand the issues involved. The slaughter of animals using halal methods is now so widespread that we seem to be combining the horror of a large abattoir with a slow, painful death.

An animal killed by the same person who raised it in familiar surroundings is obviously going to result in less stress and panic.

I'm afraid I'm very squeamish about this whole subject and not ashamed of it.

Not only halal but kosher as well, only we are not likely to see that passed through the normal outlets for meat.

Have you seen an animal being killed according to halal methods? I have spent a lot of time in the ME and Pakistan and so I saw an awful lot of sheep, goats & zebu being killed, from close enough to be splashed. They didn't seem panicky at all, rather calm and trusting.

Of course this is anecdotal evidence based on a few hundred beasts being dispatched so feel free to disagree if you have seen something different.

Personally I think it compares very well with the atmosphere of panic in abattoirs I have visited in various European countries.

I also think the various beasts I have killed myself probably had a better life & a better death. I think we tend to be very squeamish & sentimental about where our meat comes from & that even medium-haul transport followered by lairage at big abattoirs is probably much crueller than other alternatives that we don't like because we can see it happening. I refuse to eat factory farmed anything.

Just what I was thinking. My understanding is that when an animal dies in agony and distress, as with hallal slaughter methods, it releases adrenalin which makes the meat more tender. I think I'll pass on that. I prefer my beef to be tender from proper hanging (after it's slaughtered of course!)

I think some people target rotten places. When travelling to places like Lyon or Grenoble I always manage to get some wonderful food. Here's the tip: if the staff look like bad tempered idiots, there's a reason for that. But if they look happy and proud to be working there, then I normally just head straight in and worry about details of what's to eat later. Also, don't eat the steak in winter if its cheap, it will be hard.

I have spoken...