Denmark’s Agriculture and Food Minister Dan Jørgensen has signed a regulation which effectively bans religious slaughter in the country. “Animal rights come before religion,” Jørgensen told Denmark’s TV2 television news. The regulation requires all animal slaughter to be carried out with prior stunning of the animal, which is against shechita (Jewish religious slaughter).
The measure will go into effect on Monday. It will have little practical consequences for Jewish life in Denmark since for the past ten years all kosher meat sold in Denmark has been imported from abroad.
Under the new regulation, Danish slaughterhouses can no longer apply for an exemption to pre-stunning.
Both the Jewish and the Muslim communities in Denmark have strongly opposed the decree, arguing that it constitutes an infringement of religious freedom. Jørgensen rejected the argument: “When they [the religious communities] are upset about the ban even though they have not taken advantage of the exemptions available, it can only be because in the future they would like to carry out slaughter without stunning.”
Jørgensen’s predecessor as food minister, Karen Hækkerup, last year demanded that all religious slaughter without stunning in Denmark should be banned. Jørgensen is a member of the Social Democratic Party of Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt, who has recently struggled to hold her government together.
The ban on religious slaughter is seen by some observers as a populist measure. Under European Union legislation, the import of kosher or halal meat cannot be banned if it is performed in accordance with the regulations in place in the EU country where the animal is slaughtered.
Last week, the director of Copenhagen’s zoo caused international outrage when he put down a healthy giraffe for eugenic reasons and had its carcass fed to lions in front of a number of children.
An estimated 6,000 Jews live in Denmark, most of them in the capital Copenhagen.