What does this mean in practice?

For most Muslims, a guiding principle is khilafah. This emphasises their duty to look after Allah'screation and use it wisely. They will answer to Him as to how well they perform this task. Muslims apply this to the question of animal rights in a variety of ways. The Muslim Declaration at Assisi 1986 states:

We are Allah's stewards and agents on Earth. We are not masters of this Earth; it does not belong to us to do what we wish. It belongs to Allah and He has entrusted us with its safekeeping.Muslim Declaration at Assisi 1986

Slaughter of animals

Most Muslims believe that the rules around the ritual slaughter of animals are designed to minimise distress and pain for an animal. The rules include:

  • animals must be healthy and well cared for
  • the slaughterman must be an adult Muslim who says the name of God before making the cut
  • the animal's throat must be cut quickly by a single action, with a very sharp knife, to minimise pain
  • the spinal cord must not be cut
  • all of the blood must be drained from the animal after death
  • no animal should be killed in front of other animals


Food that Muslims are allowed to eat is called halal and food they should not eat is called haram.

Halal meat has been farmed, prepared and slaughtered according to Shari'ah law.

Haram food includes all pork products, animals that eat meat and animals that have not been slaughtered according to Islamic law. Muslims have to be careful with processed foods because some ingredients might be unknown.

Horses, mules and donkeys are not generally eaten in Muslim countries. It is written in the Qur'an:

He has created horses, mules and donkeys for you to ride and show.Qur'an 8:8

Some Muslims choose to be vegetarian. They believe that vegetarianism:

  • is healthy and safe
  • helps to protect animals from factory farming and from ill treatment
  • promotes the Muslim belief that God is compassionate and merciful

Animal experiments

Islam allows animal experiments if they are for a justified purpose, eg to develop new medical treatments, if no alternative ways of testing are available. Animals must always be treated well and their suffering minimised.

Many Muslims are generally against testing on animals for cosmetics.

They also believe animal experiments to measure the effects of smoking are wrong because humans are not obliged to smoke.

The role of a khalifah (someone who exercises khilafah) means that Muslims should avoid:

  • abuse, neglect or ill treatment of animals
  • overworking or overloading animals
  • allowing or encouraging animal fighting as sport
  • hunting for sport, (though hunting for food is allowed)
  • factory farming, which is seen as going against the principle of compassion
  • cutting off the tails or other parts of animals
  • putting animals in cages, unless it is to help them when suffering, or to protect them