February 2014 : Changes to animal slaughter procedures cause debate concerning religious minorities in Denmark
During 2013 there has been a discussion concerning a ban on slaughtering animals without prior stunning, that is, without anaesthetization of the animal before the actual slaughter. The Minister of Agriculture had put forward a proposition for a ban, and the ban was implemented February 17th, 2014.
The new regulations are summarized as follows on the ministerial website (in Danish) :
“On 17 February 2014 a decree which requires stunning prior to slaughter according to religious precepts was implemented. According to the regulations, it is permitted to slaughter animals according to religious ritual, as long as the animal is stunned first. Many animals are halal slaughtered in Denmark, but for the last 10 years this has not been done without prior stunning. With this new regulation, Denmark follows in the wake of a number of other European countries, including Norway and Sweden, which have similar provisions for stunning prior to slaughter. It is still allowed to import meat from animals slaughtered without prior stunning.”
The media debates concerning the ban have primarily touched upon issues concerning religious minorities, primarily Jewish and Muslim groups, and their access to meat, that has been slaughtered according to their religious rituals. A very small minority group, that of the Mandeans, has also been involved in the debate. They are the only group to have previously applied officially for a permit to slaughter without prior stunning. According to the media debate, no Muslim or Jewish groups have applied, and one of the arguments of the ban has therefore been that it will not affect the lives of these groups since they were not relying on the now banned slaughtering practice. In response to the debate the Minister affirms that the law has been changed primarily because of considerations of animal welfare. He furthermore stresses that this is not a ban on all ritual practice, but that it concerns only the specific issue of lack of anaesthetization. These debates can be linked to ongoing debates concerning halal meat in public institutions in Denmark, currently related to the so-called “meat ball-crisis” of 2013, where the issue was raised concerning pork meat in public institutions such as kindergartens and hospitals. The international response has focused on the protection of the rights of religious minorities, as can be seen by the article linked below.
For articles concerning the media debate see :
ethik (in Danish, title in English “Ritual slaughter – the Minister does not understand criticism of ban"),
Berlingske (in Danish, title in English : "Ban on slaughter received well by Venstre" [Danish Liberal Political Party])
the Jerusalem Post (in English)