Halal debate lives on as requirement to stun slaughter animals is proposed

Agriculture minister wants ban on slaughter of conscious animals, a practice that is permitted by EU but not carried out in Denmark

An application to slaughter animals without stunning them first has led the agriculture minister, Karen Hækkerup (Socialdemokraterne), to call for a ban on the practice.

No animals are slaughtered in Denmark without first being stunned, though EU regulations do allow for the practice if the animals are being slaughtered according to religious guidelines.

Hækkerup argued that the application demonstrated that Denmark needed to unilaterally demand that all animals be stunned before being slaughtered.

“Slaughtering without first stunning the animal should not be an option, it’s far too violent,” Hækkerup told Jyllands-Posten newspaper. “We have managed to get by with a voluntary understanding in the industry that animals should be stunned.”

According to Hækkerup, a number of countries including Sweden, Slovenia, Poland, Lithuania, the Netherlands and Finland all demand that animals be stunned first.

“If they can offer more protection than the EU rules do, then we can too,” Hækkerup said.

PM Helle Thorning-Schmidt (Socialdemokraterne) last week weighed into the summer’s debate about halal meat (animals slaughtered according to Islamic practices) arguing both that it was wrong that pork was withdrawn from the menu in hospitals and daycares, and that halal meat should be labelled.

Hækkerup agreed that more labelling could be introduced on a voluntary basis to help consumers decide which meat they wanted to buy.

“If consumers want the labelling I’m sure we can find a solution with businesses. They have already shown a willingness to listen to the consumer’s demands to know the percentage of fat, how the animal was raised and whether the animal was organically raised,” Hækkerup said.

While agricultural lobby Landbrug & Fødevarer agreed that animals needed to be stunned before they are slaughtered, chairman Martin Merrild argued there was less need to know if animal was religiously slaughtered.

“I have a hard time understanding why information about whether meat is halal or not is useful to anybody,” Merrild told Jyllands-Posten. “Someone who turns down Danish meat because it is halal won’t be able to turn to foreign meat, because it could be halal too, it just wouldn’t be labelled. It doesn’t make sense.”

The only difference between halal and non-halal meat in Denmark is whether a prayer is read as the animal is slaughtered after it has been stunned. All chickens and around 15 percent of Danish beef complies with halal guidelines.

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