Helle on halal: “We shouldn’t lose sight of our own culture”

PM weighs in on the halal debate that has filled the media over the summer

PM Helle Thorning-Schmidt (Socialdemokraterne) has waded into the debate that has raged all summer concerning halal meat in public institutions and pork in the nation’s daycare institutions.

In a series of interviews on Sunday, Thorning-Schmidt said that Danes should only go so far to accommodate religious customs.

“We need to remember in our zeal to welcome new citizens not to lose sight of our own culture,” Thorning-Schmidt told DR Nyheder.

Thorning-Schmidt said that she is opposed to the suggestion to remove all pork products from daycares.

“I deeply oppose the idea and I always have,” she said. “We have to stick with the way we eat and what we do in Denmark. There should be room for frikadeller [meatballs].”

The PM said that the Danish Christmas traditions of singing hymns and eating roast pork should be able to exist side by side with the customs of other religions.

Thorning-Schmidt encouraged butchers and slaughterhouses to label whether or not meat had been slaughtered under halal practices, but said that the government would not require them to do so.

“I think it is natural that consumers want to know if they are eating halal meat or not and I urge all companies to clearly indicate it on their packaging,” she said.

Recently deposed food minister Mette Gjerskov (S) said last week that she was against the idea of halal-labelling, and the idea was also met with scepticism by agricultural lobby group Landbrug og Fødevarer.

"I have the impression that ‘halal’ has a negative connotation for some,” Landbrug og Fødevarer spokesperson Martin Merrild told Jyllands-Posten. “Consumers do not understand it and if by labelling our meat we make it less competitive, we are just shooting ourselves in the foot.”