This question is often posed by vegetarians, advocates of animal rights, and some Hindus. In fact, there are people who consider the consumption of meat to be a violation of animal rights. But meat is not forbidden to Muslims.
While Islam enjoins mercy and compassion toward all living creatures, it maintains that God has created plant and animal life for the benefit of humankind. Man has been ordered and entrusted by the Creator to use every resource in this world judiciously because it is a blessing from Him and a trust.
Islam offers one of the most humane methods of animal slaughter. The objective of Islamic slaughter is to ensure minimal pain and maximal blood drainage from the animal as detrimental microorganisms flourish in blood. Besides Muslims, people from other ethnic and religious backgrounds are assured that meat slaughtered Islamically is healthy and of high quality. It remains fresh for a longer period due to the lesser amount of blood in the meat in comparison to other methods of slaughtering.
Animals are slaughtered in a swift and merciful manner with the pronunciation of words meaning, “In the name of God; God is Most Great.” This acknowledges that the animal›s life is being taken with God›s permission to meet the lawful need for food. The Islamic mode of slaughtering an animal also requires that the following conditions be met:
- The animal has to be fed as usual prior to slaughter and given water.
- It may not be beaten or tortured in any way by man or machine. Stunning before slaughter is not permitted.
- One animal should not be allowed to see another being slaughtered.
- The knife should be large enough and razor sharp.
- Slaughtering is done from the front of the neck, and the butcher must swiftly sever the respiratory tract, esophagus and jugular vein without cutting the spinal cord. With swift cutting of the blood vessels in the neck at the proper place, rapid and profuse bleeding causes instant shock and anesthetization in the brain so that no sensation is felt. Thus, the animal does not suffer. 
- The animal must be completely lifeless and the blood drained completely before skinning and removing the head.
The promotion of healthy and correct methods of food production is part of the Islamic way of life. Its legislation encourages a strong respect for the sanctity of life and an abhorrence to cruelty to animals.
- In an authentic narration by at-Tabarani, the Prophet scolded a man for even sharpening his blade while the sheep was watching him.
- The Prophet instructed, “Allah has decreed proficiency in all things. So when you slaughter, slaughter well. Let each one of you sharpen his blade and spare suffering to the animal he slaughters.”  (Narrated by Muslim)
1 This is accomplished by use of a bolt pistol, electric shock or electrified water (in the case of poultry), all of which cause additional stress and suffering to the animal.
2 In an authentic narration by at-Tabarani, the Prophet scolded a man for even sharpening his blade while the sheep was watching him.
3 The Prophet instructed, «Allah has decreed proficiency in all things. So when you slaughter, slaughter well. Let each one of you sharpen his blade and spare suffering to the animal he slaughters.» (Narrated by Muslim)