A Danish government’s move to ban ritual slaughter has angered both Muslim and Jewish faith communities, seeing the ban as a direct attack on their religious practices.
“We and the Muslim organizations are talking about this,” local Jewish leader Finn Schwartz told The Jerusalem Post.
Schwartz added that his community is in discussions with Danish authorities and is in contact with the Agriculture and Food Minister Dan Jørgensen.
The controversy erupted last Thursday when Jørgensen announced that starting from next Monday, Jewish and Muslim ritual slaughter will be illegal in Denmark.
“Animal rights come before religion,” the minister was quoted as saying by Danish station TV2.
The move was widely criticized by religious leaders, dubbing it as an attack on the freedom of the religious minorities.
“When you have religious minorities in a society you should also respect the religious minority even if you really don’t like some of the things [they] are doing,” Schwartz said.
“If you want to change fundamental rules that concern the religious minorities then you should have an open discussion,” he said.
Similar debates surrounding halal and kosher slaughter erupted last summer when previous Agriculture minister Karen Hækkerup stated her opposition to all slaughter without pre-stunning.
Hækkerup was responding to the demand of a Muslim organization, that it be allowed to butcher animals without any stunning either prior to or following the cutting.
Replying to critics who accused him of violating his citizens’ religious rights, the minister said that “when [Jews and Muslims] 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.”
Jewish organizations harshly censured Denmark over the impending ban on Thursday.
“This attack on basic Jewish religious practice in Denmark puts into question the continuance of community life in the country and follows strongly on the heels of persistent attacks on Jewish circumcision,” European Jewish Congress President Moshe Kantor said.
Kantor said that he hoped the ban was not an attempt to “placate or mollify animal rights activists in light of the international criticism” Denmark received after zookeepers shot and killed a giraffe in Copenhagen.
European Commissioner for Health Tonio Borg has also condemned the ban, saying that it “contradicts European law.”
The Conference of European Rabbis intends to raise the issue of “continuous attacks against religious minorities in Europe,” during a meeting with European Commission President José Manuel Barroso on Monday, CER head Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt told the Post.
The Danish ban constituted a “further erosion of religious liberties and freedoms in Europe,” Goldschmidt said.
According to the Islamic and Jewish ritual, the animal is slaughtered by a sharp blade.
The concept of halal, — meaning permissible in Arabic — has traditionally been applied to food.
Muslims should only eat meat from livestock slaughtered by a sharp knife from their necks, and the name of Allah, the Arabic word for God, must be mentioned.
Muslim scholars agree that Shari`ah provides a divine law of mercy that should be applied on all Allah’s creations, including animals.
Islam also provides details about avoiding any unnecessary pain.
Denmark is home to a Muslim minority of 200,000, making three percent of the country’s 5.4 million population.
The Scandinavian country has a Jewish minority of about 6,000.