New animal slaughter law comes into effect

Muslim and Jewish leaders call it an assault on religious freedom

A new law banning the slaughter of animals that have not been stunned, which came into effect today, has been met with resistance by several  Muslim and Jewish religious groups.

The new law was introduced at the behest of the agriculture and food minister, Dan Jørgensen (S). “As far as I am aware, nobody has practiced this kind of slaughtering without stunning in Denmark in many years,” he told the Ritzau news agency.

“But we make the change anyway because some people have been demanding it and I want to be completely sure that it won’t happen in Denmark.”

A number of Muslim and Jewish religious groups, which have lambasted the rule change as an attack on the freedom of religion in Denmark, are meeting to discuss the issue.

“When you have religious minorities in a society, you should also respect the religious minority even if you don’t really like some of the things [they] are doing,” Finn Schwartz, the head of the Jewish association Det Jødiske Samfund, told The Jerusalem Post. “If you want to change fundamental rules that concern religious minorities, then you should have an open discussion.”

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

Norway and Sweden already have it
But Jørgensen argued that he valued animal welfare higher than the religious needs in this case and pointed to Denmark’s neighbours as an example.

“Sweden and Norway already have the ban in place and my lawyers tell me that it is not a breach of religious freedom,” Jørgensen said. “We won’t ban religious slaughter in Denmark, but it must be defensible in terms of animal welfare and the animals must first be stunned.”

According to the animal welfare laws, the agriculture and food minister can pass the law without parliament’s consent, Jørgensen said.

READ MORE: Danish Crown lays off 472 employees

EU rules allow ritual slaughter
The move to end the slaughter of animals without stunning them first was led by the former agriculture and food minister, Karen Hækkerup (S), on the back of a hefty debate concerning halal meat in Denmark.

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. The slaughter of all chickens and around 15 percent of Danish beef complies with halal guidelines.

Current EU regulations do allow animals to be slaughtered without being stunned if they are done so according to religious guidelines.

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