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Ritual slaughter

Ritual slaughter in Canada

Legal requirements for slaughtering animals in Canada are outlined in the Safe Food for Canadians Regulations (SFCR). These include requirements for ritual slaughter in compliance with Judaic or Islamic slaughter laws (Shehita in Judaism and Dabihah in Islam). These laws inform an exception to the general requirement that an animal be rendered unconscious prior to slaughter. For ritual slaughter, an animal may be slaughtered while conscious, so long as it is done with “a single, fluid, uninterrupted cut of the neck”, followed by a rapid bleeding process to prevent the animal from “regaining consciousness before death” (SFCR s. 144). The Canadian Food Inspection Agency outlines the welfare risks of not stunning an animal prior to slaughter and provides detailed steps on how to minimise these risks. This includes the risk of an animal not losing consciousness immediately following the act of slaughter.

Public discourse on animal welfare in Canada largely focuses on the conditions of industrial farming, as opposed to the act or moment of slaughter. For instance, some have criticised the recent trend of implementing provincial ag-gag laws. These laws prohibit individuals from documenting and distributing evidence of animal suffering inside factory farms.

However, ritual slaughter did briefly become a site of public debate in January 2018 when the SFRC came into force. Yet it did not receive high public attention compared to some European countries like Belgium (which banned ritual slaughter in 2019). In Canada, any religious freedom argument related to ritual slaughter would be positioned in relation to the balance of s. 1 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which “guarantees the rights and freedoms set out in it subject only to such reasonable limits prescribed by law as can demonstrably be justified in a free and democratic society”. This includes limits to freedom of religion found in s. 2(a) of the Charter.

D 19 May 2022    ALauren Strumos

CNRS Unistra Dres Gsrl

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