What's going on?
Denmark’s government has brought in a ban on the religious slaughter of animals for the production of halal and kosher meat, after years of campaigning from welfare activists.
The change to the law, announced last week and effective as of yesterday, has been called “anti-Semitism” by Jewish leaders and “a clear interference in religious freedom” by the non-profit group Danish Halal.
So was the government right to change the law?
Have you watched a halal or kosher butcher slaughter a cow? The animal has a knife drawn across its throat while still fully aware, and bleeds to death. Their legs judder, their neck twists, they panic. Why should we place the sensibilities of religious people above the rights of an animal to as painless a death as possible? The Danish minister for agriculture and food has said "animal rights come before religion”, and he is bang on.
All these new regulations require is that animals are stunned before death, in line with rules in many other European countries. Yes Jewish Law and Islamic Law require the animal to be conscious when killed for meat to be kosher or halal, but Denmark is a progressive nation - with a population of around 6,500 Jewish people, and 270,000 Muslims out of a total 5.6 million - and need not bind itself to the outdated and inhumane principles of historic creeds. Furthermore, traditional halal and kosher meat can still be freely imported if so desired.
Where to begin. First, socially, these bully-boy tactics may cause friction in the Danish community (and the pitch of fury at the decision suggests it already has). The UK permits animals to be conscious before they are slaughtered by Islamic or Jewish butchers (though around 88 per cent of animals are stunned first) - this allows Jews and Muslims to continue their ways of life without feeling marginalised by the state.
Second, there are far greater problems with meat production than ways of slaughtering. Is it not crueler to keep a chicken in a battery coop all its life than to quickly cut a lamb's throat? If Denmark is so worried about animal welfare, why not tackle the barbaric conditions of its pig farming? Or its giraffe-killing zoos?
Given these issues, is it really accurate to say that "animal rights come before religion"? This decision instead appears to targets religious minorities by selectively applying a concern for animal rights.