Religious slaughter is performed by Muslims and Jewish in order to obtain halal and kosher foods, respectively. This procedure is performed without pre slaughter stunning and it follows precise rules prescribed by the religious rite, which characterize its sacredness. The aim of the study was to determine and compare plasma cortisol values, an animal based stress indicator, in animals slaughtered using traditional procedures, which include stunning, with those in animals slaughtered using Halal and Kosher methods, which does not involve stunning. The study showed that during two steps of animal’s productive life (growth and bleeding) the greatest variation of plasma cortisol levels between slaughters with and without stunning was observed in the exsanguination phase. Indeed, during bleeding, plasma cortisol levels were higher in Halal-slaughtered animals than in those slaughtered with Jewish rite and in those slaughtered after stunning. These findings revealed that the increased levels of cortisol may alter the organoleptic characteristics of the meat. Finally, the study also revealed a legal gap in the field of labelling rules, as far as the meat unsuitable for the Halal/kosher market are however sold to consumers without further information.
Keywords: Animal welfare, cortisol, halal slaughter, kosher slaughter, stunning