The word Halal translates from Arabic to English as “permissible". In Islam, all food is Halal or permissible, excluding a few foods. (Non-Halal Food)
Meat is a food with certain conditions that need to be followed in order for it to be Halal. These conditions are steps taken throughout the life of the animal, from the day it is born until the day it is slaughtered.
Every day in an animal’s life should be happy until the very last day. The animal should be treated humanely, fed properly, allowed to live outside and have freedom of movement. The animal must be accorded its life. It must be treated as the animal it is and both its life and death must be respected.
Muslims believe that in order to have permission to take the life of the animals, there must be a need or purpose and permission needs to be taken from The Giver of that life.
The Halal slaughter starts with giving a drink of water to the animal while gently speaking to it and handling it gently. Then the animal is maneuvered to the ground, laying it on its left side, and preferably facing the direction of Makkah. Legs should be free to move and help pump the blood from the body after it has been slaughtered. A very sharp blade that has been sharpened away from the sight of the animal should be used and no other animal should be present to witness the slaughtering. The name of Allah must be mentioned, prior to the slaughtering. Then in a swift and scientifically proven, nearly pain-free one or two slices, the animal is slaughtered.
To read a more detailed description of the science behind halal slaughter, check out this website.