Devout Muslims observe a number of dietary restrictions, collectively known as "halal" and derived from Islamic Shari'ah law. The Quran is Islam's holy book, and it is very specific about food preparation and types of food Muslims are allowed to eat. In the slaughter of meat, for example, animals must be killed by bloodletting for halal standards to be met. While the Quran is relatively silent on the disposal of blood, halal butchers must follow any laws regarding the disposal of animals.
"Halal" means permissible in Arabic, and any food or practice not considered halal by the Quran is called "haram" or forbidden. Pork, for example, is considered unclean in Islam, and its consumption in any form is explicitly forbidden by the Quran. Other types of meat, such as beef and poultry, are allowed, but only if the animals are slaughtered and handled according to halal standards.
Muslims and Meat
Known as Zabihah, the halal method for animal slaughter involves cutting the jugular vein while the animal is still alive and draining all the blood from its body. Blood is considered unclean by the Quran, and Muslims are forbidden to consume blood, as well as meat from an animal killed any other way. Zabihah also requires that the butcher be a Muslim, that the animal not be killed before slaughter and a prayer dedicating the meat to God must be recited during the process.
Blood is a hazardous waste so its proper disposal after slaughter is important. While no halal requirements exist for the disposal of animal blood, any slaughter facility or independent operation must comply with legal regulations. In the United States, regulations vary between states, but most have a variation of the Dead Animal Disposal Act, which says that all parts of a slaughtered animal must be disposed of within 48 hours. Blood can be composted or buried as long as it does not contaminate water sources, or it can be brought to a local landfill that accepts animals.
Because the halal method of slaughter involves the slow death of an animal by bloodletting, some animal welfare groups are strongly opposed to the procedure, calling it "barbarically cruel." In an effort to make the process more humane, some halal butcheries will stun the animal before slaughter. The Halal Food Authority of the UK maintains that ensuring an animal feels no pain is extremely important to halal requirements for Zabihah.