Denmark is the latest to join a growing list of European countries that have banned ritual slaughter, a necessary step for the production of kosher and halal meat for Jews and Muslims respectively. The country’s agriculture minister Dan Jorgensen signed an order on February 13 that ensures the ban takes effect immediately.
The ban is symbolic because Denmark has no kosher or halal slaughterhouses currently and all of the meat for the country’s small Jewish and Islamic communities is imported. Yet, a significant number of Jews and Muslims managed to inundate various government offices with protests, once news of the ban was made public.
While addressing the media on Thursday, Jorgensen said, “Animal rights come before religious rights. I am in favor of religious slaughter but it must be done in a way that does not bring pain to the animal. This can be accomplished only by stunning.”
Both Jews and Muslims believe that the process of stunning damages different body parts and causes the animal to hemorrhage, which in turn makes it impossible for the hemorrhaged blood to be removed completely. Therefore, they argue that stunning an animal before slaughtering makes the animal unsuitable for consumption.
In the wake of the protests in Denmark, Rabbi Menachem Margolin, who is also the head of an umbrella group of different Jewish organizations in the European Union, called on the country’s prime minister to cancel Jorgensen’s order. Earlier, Margolin said that shechita bans contradicted laws in the Union that guaranteed freedom of religion to its people. Recently, Margolin wrote a letter to Danish officials saying that kosher slaughter was a “bare minimum necessary for the survival of a Jewish community anywhere. Shechita bans in Denmark are hurtful to Jews in the country, in Europe, and throughout the world.”
According to the Israeli deputy minister of religious freedom, Rabbi Eli Ben Dahan, Denmark’s ban reflects the country’s anti-semitism.
Jewish protestors were supported by Danish Halal, a Muslim organization that called for a repeal of the “clear interference of religious freedom.” However, Danish imam Khalil Jaffar pointed out that a decree made several years ago allows for pre-stunned animals to be considered halal and so the new ban does not really affect the current slaughter protocol.
Denmark joins a growing list of countries where ritualistic Jewish and Islamic slaughter is considered illegal, including Poland, Netherlands and Switzerland.