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Données sociologiques et juridiques sur la religion en Europe et au-delà

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Accueil > Danemark > Questions et débats actuels > 2019 > Abattage rituel

Abattage rituel

The debate on ritual slaughter in Denmark is placed in relation to two dimensions. Denmark is on the one hand a major producer of meat products to several Muslim countries (Emirates, Iran, Malaysia, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia as well as several countries in North Africa). Debates on animal welfare is on the other hand strongly positioned in Denmark, and as a member of the EU, where The Regulation No 1099/2009 of 24 September 2009 endorses a concern for “avoiding animals pain, distress or suffering during their killing and related operations” (Art. 3). In order to address this concern, slaughter without stunning was prohibited by Executive Order 135 issued on 14 February 2014.
By Executive Order 135,
- Slaugthering of cattle, sheeps, goats and chicken must take place in a slaughterhouse.
- Slaugthering must be reported to the Danish Veterinary and Food Administration.
- Slaugthering must include the cutting of the two jugular veins and carotid arteries manually or mechanically with a sharp instrument immediately after the animal has been stunned to allow the animal to die from bleeding.

There is in addition a number of more specific demands, including that the use of a non-penetrating stunner is allowed under certain conditions (e.g. not allowed for cattle less than 8 months old and for bulls more than 24 months) and that cattle must be restrained standing in a box. The regulation did not change the basic conditions of slaughtering of chickens, where stunning had already been obligatory according to regulation 583 of 6.6.2007, although the slaughtering of chickens without stunning had been allowed by the previous regulation 1037 of 14.12.1994.

This Executive Order was conceived by some as prohibiting kosher as well as halal slaughter. A number of prominent Muslim organisations criticized it heavily, including Danish Halal, an organisation allegedly representing 53 Muslims organisations. The Jewish Community also criticized it. The criticism was picked up by several international media. (See for The Independent and The Guardian.) Most media stories, however, missed two important details. First, while the slaughter of cattle and sheep without stunning could be performed before Executive Order 135 was issued, it was only through an exception from the general law and nobody had asked to be granted this exemption for many years. In fact, slaughter without stunning had not been performed since a slaughterhouse in Slagelse, who slaughered both halal and kosher meat, went bankrupt in 2004.

Secondly, the Executive Order in fact sets up regulations for religious slaughter, pointing out that this requires pre-stunning and that meat from animals slaughtered according to the regulation on religious rituals is expected to be sold to a population who requests meat slaughtered according to religious rituals.

Executive Order 135 in this way attempts to strike a compromise between Danish export interests and animal welfare considerations. The Executive order efficiently bans slaughter according to kosher regulations, but in regard to halal, it places itself in the middle of a long-running conflict among Danish Muslims as to what constitutes halal.

Conflicts over the definition of halal

Danish Halal was formed a couple of years ago, on the claim that the control done by the Muslim organization issuing halal certification for Danish exports, Islamic Cultural Center, to ensure that halal meat lived up to its name, was not legitimate. The issue was that on several occasions, Islamic Cultural Center had accepted the use of penetrating shunning. Islamic Cultural Center later changed its description of legitimate halal procedures to clarify that only non-penetrating stunning is acceptable in Islam. Regulation 135 actualized this discussion as Ben Yones Essabar, the chairman of Danish Halal and member of the board of Islamisk Trossamfund, one of the largest mosques in Denmark, claimed that if the animal is stunned it is not halal slaughter and Muslims should not eat it. The imam of the Islamic Cultural Center claimed, on the other hand, that this type of stunning is acceptable and lives up to the rules of halal slaughter. This imam, Khalil Jaffar Mushib, claimed that a fatwa making slaughter with stunning acceptable as halal had been issued years back. Danish Halal collected 20,000 signatures (out of a population of about 300,000) against Regulation 135, but with no effect.

The story on the alleged ban on religious slaughter in Denmark went global. The fact that the media story was reposted again in 2015 in Times Magazine, which by mistake presented it as a new story (Andreasen 2015), support an interpretation of religious slaughter as a topic of high emotional and symbolic importance.

References : Andreassen, Andreas Marckmann 2015 ”TIME retter fejl om dansk halal- og kosher-forbud”, Journalisten, 31.07.2015.

17 mai 2019