Okay, the quick research I just did is on wikipedia, which is ALWAYS suspect, so I wanted to acknowledge that from the beginning. Some of what I share here is just from memory of things I've read. I won't go back and provide sources for now, because I just want to make a quick point. I'm sure there are inaccuracies and other problems with my specifics. That's not the point of this blog, so I've decided to place a HUGE disclaimer here instead. Maybe someday I'll do a better job researching this and writing something much more substantial. For now, you get this sloppy non-academic blog entry!
Warning: I do describe methods of slaughter here, and link to the wiki articles which go into even more written detail.
In Islam and other religions, animal welfare is actually important - treating animals with compassion, not abusing them, that sort of thing. Hence, only "halal" (legal or lawful) meat is allowed (among other restrictions). The halal article on wikipedia is here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Halal. It is argued by some Muslim scholars that the method called Dabihah (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ḏabīḥah) is a humane way to slaughter an animal for meat. Dabihah is "cutting the large arteries in the neck along with the esophagus and trachea with one swipe of an unserrated blade." Supposedly this is relatively painless and the animal is effectively brain-dead as it bleeds to death.
Some disagree, and some studies have been done (see the links).
Kashrut (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kosher) is the Jewish method, which seems similar. There are differences between the two and the details are available online.
Hindus and Sikhs who eat meat sometimes use a method called Jhatka (also, Chatka) (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jhatka), which is essentially very quickly chopping off the animal's head. Obviously that's a pretty quick death.
There is a difference, in my opinion, between what is allowed by a religion and the solution to the complications. There is a lot of respect towards the animals intended behind these rules and regulations, and much spirituality as well. I respect this.
At the same time, bleeding an animal versus decapitating it...this is a choice for an animal lover?
When we don't need to eat these animals to begin with, it seems to me the least complicated and most compassionate way to go is to stop eating them altogether.
I say this with no judgment towards meat-eaters whatsoever. What I believe is right and what I practice do not always match up. I do occasionally eat meat at restaurants or when visiting others who are doing the cooking. I've been though very tough times wherein the comfort-food qualities of meat-based dishes won out over my own personal ethical code.
And hence I write this blog entry as a musing on the issue. For many years I have wanted to become a very disciplined vegetarian, and eventually a very disciplined vegan, and have not yet arrived there.
We do our best, and that's what all of this is about.
Very few people act with outright cruelty as their intention.
I've tried to make it clear here that this is complicated, and I am merely presenting my thoughts on the matter. My hope is that my respect for you comes through.
Peace and all good.