(photo credit: Courtesy)
An Israeli study on electro-convulsive therapy (ECT) for severely depressed or
psychotic patients has apparently disproved the claim that the similar process
of stunning animals before slaughter is humane and minimizes their
Prof. Rael Strous, a psychiatrist at Tel Aviv University’s
Sackler Faculty of Medicine and the Be’er Ya’acov Mental Health Center, has just
published an article on the subject in the journal Meat Science together with
Bar-Ilan University researcher Dr. Ari Zivotofsky.
reached the conclusion that electric stunning of animals, often advocated as
kinder than kosher slaughter, “is in fact cruel and barbaric,” as if one
administered ECT without first giving patients sedation and/or general
The team studied ECT given to depressed patients – in which a
strong electric shock is given under sedation and/or anesthesia to those who are
not helped by conventional anti-depressive medication – as a comparison for the
stunning of animals. This was unique research in which medical procedures used
on humans were investigated to learn about the suffering of
“Thus, introducing stunning, as we know from the experience in
psychiatry on humans, defeats the objective of more humane slaughter,” they
wrote. Animals that are inadequately stunned because of improperly positioned
electrodes or other problems could suffer pain for a minute or more before
losing consciousness, they said.
Strous said all leading Orthodox
rabbinical arbiters around the world – except for a single rabbi in New Zealand
– insist electrical stunning of animals before ritual slaughter is forbidden. In
shechita, Jewish ritual slaughter of kosher animals, an extremely sharp knife is
used to quickly sever a major blood vessel in the animal’s neck. This, the
rabbis have long said, minimizes distress and pain to the animal as it loses a
large amount of blood and consciousness very rapidly.
countries are introducing compulsory stunning prior to animal slaughter,” Strous
told The Jerusalem Post
. “This would in essence ban shechita for the first time
since the Nazis in Europe.
The “stunning bill” was already passed in the
lower house in the Netherlands, Strous said, “and only recently delayed in the
upper house due to much lobbying – including, I am led to believe, with the help
of academic input, such as our article.”
The article includes a
description of ECT, in which electrodes are placed on the patient’s temples,
after which a rapid burst of electric current of 70 to 170 volts is meted out.
The mechanism by which the electricity “rearranges the brain cells” and provides
relief to psychiatric disease is not fully understood but it is often very
effective, at least for a while. It can even prevent psychiatric
Without putting the patient “under,” ECT is considered a form
of “medical torture.”
Patients who have been subjected to it without
general anesthesia have reportedly suffered much more anxiety and trauma than
they had before.
The authors show that “reversible electrical stunning,”
very commonly employed in commercial abattoirs abroad, is very similar to ECT
given without general anesthetic. Stunned animals behave as if they had an
epileptic seizure, their bodies rigid with muscle contraction.
But it is
reversible stunning, and they do not all lose consciousness.
of voltages varies according to the type of animal, techniques used and the
individual creature’s size and behavior. The animals going to slaughter can thus
regain consciousness and then face the knife that will kill
Stunning a chicken, they write, is more problematic than in cows,
sheep or other animals.
A common stunning method for poultry is to give
them an “electrical water bath through the birds to the metal
Every component must be adjusted perfectly to ensure a proper
stun. There has to be a solid electrical ground, water height must perfectly
match the bird size, and there must be some form of isolation at the beginning
to pressure pre-stun electrical shocks.
In practice, the authors write,
these conditions are often not met. The stunning process can also cause blood
blemishes on the meat, broken bones and painful muscle contractions in the
birds, which can still sense what is happening.