Muslims around the world follow strict religious guidelines when slaughtering any animal which was raised for meat. These guidelines, known as zabihah, apply whether the slaughter involves a single animal at home or multiple animals in a commercial facility such as a halal slaughterhouse.
According to the Islamic guidelines, the animal must be treated kindly and humanely both before and during the slaughter. This includes raising the animal in as natural a way possible, and at the time of the slaughter, using kind methods of restraint. In addition, measures should be taken to prevent the animal from seeing the knife which will be used or the bodies of other animals which have already been slaughtered.
The zabihah slaughter itself must be performed by a mentally and physically able Muslim on a healthy animal which is permissible to eat. After saying "Bismillah" (in the name of God) and "Allahu akbar" (God is the Greatest), a single, quick incision is made to the animal's throat. The animal almost immediately loses consciousness due to the severed trachea, and the blood rapidly drains from the cut jugular vein. Only after the blood has thoroughly drained will the animal be hoisted for skinning and slaughtering.
While slaughter is a necessity the world over in order to obtain meat for the human diet, in some cases Muslims regard slaughter as a sacrificial act of worship. Examples of this include buying and slaughtering a sheep as part of the the Islamic holiday of Eid Al-Adha, or as part of an aqiqah celebration following the birth of a child. In both cases, some of the sacrificial meat must be given away as charity.
See the related Photos of Eid Al-Adha.