A vast majority of all Danish slaughter chickens – 99 percent – are butchered using the halal method. It is a clear advantage when most of the Danish slaughter chickens are exported – some of them to countries where a majority of the population consists of Muslims who are only allowed to eat halal meat.
"We need to think in terms of finances. It’s all about kroner and øre and where we can sell our products,” Henrik Bunkenborg, who is responsible for halal butchering at the Danish Agriculture and Food Council (DAFC), told Søndagsavisen newspaper.
In Denmark, where a majority are either Christian or without religion, halal meat is increasingly common. We just don’t know it. While 96 percent of all Danes regularly eat chicken, a full 67 percent are not aware that the chickens are butchered using the halal method, according to a survey conducted by Interresearch for Søndagsavisen.
Bunkenborg believes it is the industry’s responsibility to inform its consumers, but he admits that it is not easy for them to know how the animals have been butchered.
“Some producers have chosen to label their halal products, but they are under no obligation to do so,” he said.
The Danish Consumer Council (DCC) does not think there is a basis for labelling halal-butchered chickens. “There could be a debate about animal welfare during the slaughtering, but the Animal Ethics Council has given the go-ahead in that area,” said Camilla Udsen, a DCC spokesperson.
Despite that, 32 percent of Danes think that halal butchering should be banned over concerns of animal welfare.
According to Bunkenborg, this attitude can be chalked up to ignorance. “If the consumers knew what halal-butchering in Denmark is all about, that percentage would be far from as big as it is.”
Jaffar Mushib is an imam responsible for approving halal butchering in Danish slaughterhouses.
“I’m very pleased with our collaboration, but I would be even more pleased if they stopped sedating the animals prior to slaughter,” he said, pointing out that in traditional halal butchering in the Middle East, animals receive no anaesthetics, since it is a central Islam principle that the animal should be alive at the moment of slaughter.
Mushib visits the slaughterhouses every other month to ensure that the halal butchering is carried out according to the precepts. He has often found himself having to point out mistakes that the slaughterhouses make.
“They listen to me and comply with it, just as I try to adapt to Danish conditions.”