halal and kosher ban
Cows grazing in a countryside free-range farm.Reuters

Halal and kosher meat will no longer be produced in Denmark, where the ritual slaughter has been banned after years of campaigning by animal welfare groups.

Dan Jørgensen, Minister for Agriculture and Food, backs the decision with certainty of his conscience, even as he is widely quoted by the media as saying, "animal rights come before religion".

The statement has stirred up much controversy and debate from Jewish and Muslim religious groups, which are not willing to take non-halal/kosher meat on a "platter".

Animals in most countries are required to be stunned before slaughter to avoid excruciating pain at the time of death, but Jewish and Muslim rituals require the animal to be conscious during slaughter. Their legs and stomachs shiver, their necks twist and their bodies convulse painfully.

From the perspective of animal welfare groups, suffering of sentient animals should not be overlooked for the sake of unsympathetic religious sensibilities.

Supporters of the new law point to the fact that regulations of stunning animals before death are already in place in European Union countries.

The Economist notes that Denmark has not recorded any ritual slaughter in the last ten years.

"No slaughter without pre-stunning has been registered in Denmark in the last ten years. It is still permitted to import meat slaughtered without pre-stunning. And a very large amount of Danish meat has been, and will continue to be, halal slaughtered, with the animal stunned right before slaughter," says Jørgensen.

Khalil Jaffar, an Imam at the Islamic Cultural Centre in Copenhagen has testified that Islamic leaders in the country promulgated a religious decree many years ago, identifying stunned animals cut by knife as halal in Denmark, according to Al Jazeera.

"To eliminate all doubt, let me make it clear that slaughter according to Islamic precepts is still permitted in Denmark. This is not changing. It is important for the Danish government that everybody in Denmark can purchase meat slaughtered according to Islamic precepts without coming into conflict with their religious beliefs," Jørgensen said.

Finn Schwarz, president of the Jewish Community Centre, said that the new rules are not likely to affect Denmark's Jewish community as kosher meat consumed in the country is already sourced from abroad.

However, Danish Halal, a non-profit halal monitoring group, has protested against the ban, calling it a "clear interference in religious freedom limiting the rights of Muslims and Jews to practise their religion in Denmark".

Rabbi Eli Ben Dahan, Israeli Deputy Minister of Religious Services, condemned the new move, saying it was motivated not by concern for animals, but by anti-Semitism.

"European anti-Semitism is showing its true colours across Europe, and is even intensifying in the government institutions," Dahan said.

Meanwhile, Andrew Brown, writing for The Guardian, notes that the pain animals experience at the end of their lives might fade in comparison with the brutalities they undergo throughout their lives, being confined in factory farms.

He further points out that about 25,000 piglets die in factory farms everyday of diseases and poor health before reaching slaughterhouse. Also, half of the adult female pigs had open sores, while 95% of the animals had their tails docked, in violation of the EU regulations.