It is noteworthy that Islam has enjoined kindness and mercy to animals even when slaughtering them. Islam made it clear that the animal should be made comfortable and slaughtered in the least painful way. All measures should be taken so that one be kind to the unfortunate animal and spare it unnecessary suffering insofar as possible. Therefore, if we find any new method which achieves the purpose of Shari`ah in making the slaughtering process painless to the animal, then we can resort to it provided that it does not involve any harm to the animal or the people who will eat the meat.
The eminent Muslim scholar, Sheikh Yusuf Al-Qaradawi states: “The Islamic way of slaughtering animals to make their meat lawful was chosen because it was the quickest and least painful way to take the animal’s life. Islam equally prohibited harshness and mercilessness towards humans and animals, and ordered Muslims to be merciful towards both. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) states, “The merciful are shown mercy by the All-Merciful. Show mercy to those on earth, and He Who is in heaven will show mercy unto you.” and “Those who are merciless (towards others) will be deprived (Allah’s) mercy.”
Just as Islam has ordained its adherents to show mercy, it has ordained them to do all their actions in the most perfect, kind, and excellent way. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said: “Allah has ordained kindness (or excellence) in everything. If killing is to be done, do it in the best manner, and when you slaughter, do it in the best manner by first sharpening the knife and putting the animal at ease.” (Reported by Muslim)
In line with this teaching, Islam demands that an animal be slaughtered by cutting its throat (to cause its death). It is forbidden to smash the animal’s head, or strangle it with a rope, or kill it by beating it to death or by letting it fall from a height, etc. All animals killed in this way are regarded as dead, and it is strictly prohibited to eat them according to the Qur’anic text which states: “Forbidden unto you (for food) are carrion and blood and swine flesh, and that which hath been dedicated unto any other than Allah, and the strangled, and the dead through beating, and the dead through falling from a height, and that which hath been killed by (the goring of) horns, and the devoured of wild beasts, saving that which ye make lawful (by the death stroke), and that which hath been immolated unto idols…” (Al-Ma’idah: 3)
Therefore, it is out of the obligatory kindness to animals that the knife is to be sharpened and the animal is to be put at ease (as stated in the above mentioned Hadith). Also, the Islamic manners of slaughtering include that the knife is not to be sharpened in front of the animal, and one animal should not be slaughtered in front of another.
It is to be noted that Islam chooses to end the animal’s life by cutting the throat and the two jugular veins, as this is the quickest and least painful way. Islam requires the use of a sharp instrument and forbids to rend the throat by using teeth or nails and all other painful means. That is why we Muslims do not accept the accusation that we are harsh towards animals. However, if there is a new method that lessens the pain of slaughtering and comforts the animal, then it goes along with the objectives of Shari`ah in showing mercy and kindness towards animals.
Islam welcomes any addition in the method of slaughtering that aims at increasing the animal’s comfort and decreasing its feeling of pain, such as injecting the animal with a small dose of a narcotic, provided that the drug used does not accelerate the animal’s death and cause it before slaughtering (cutting the throat), or harm the animal or the people who will eat the meat. Such addition conforms with the objective of the Islamic legislation in showing kindness and mercy towards animals, and there is no objection against it from a Shari`ah or juristic point of view unless it is proven to be harmful to animal or humans, as the rule is that “no harm shall be inflicted or reciprocated.”
Therefore, I see that there is nothing wrong with this practice, as it falls within the required kindness to animals that Allah has ordained and demanded, and there is no negative or harmful effect in it. It is similar to anesthetizing a human before he undergoes a surgical operation.
It is reported in an authentic Hadith that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) related to his Companions the story of a man who found a dog panting with thirst. The man went down into a well, filled his shoes with water, and offered it to the dog to quench its thirst. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said: “Then Allah was grateful to him and forgave him his sins.” The Companions asked, “O Messenger of Allah! Is there a reward for us with relation to animals?” He replied “There is a reward with (relation to) every living creature.”
The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) also informed us that a prostitute offered water to a dog and then Allah was grateful to her and forgave her sins. He also said, “Fear Allah when you deal with these beasts of burden. They must be healthy for riding and eating.” (Reported by Abu Dawud, Ahmad, and Ibn Hibban)”