Denmark’s Agriculture and Food Minister Dan Jørgensen has signed a new regulation that bans religious slaughter of animals. The move has outraged Jewish and Muslim leaders but Mr Jørgensen publicly declared that “animal rights come before religion.” The new law bars slaughterhouses from allowing Muslim and Jewish leaders from killing animals without first stunning them. Muslims and Jewish religions believe that God only allows for the consumption of Halal or Kosher meat that involves the slitting of the throat of animals. Animal rights advocates insist that these religious rituals are cruel to animals.
European Union regulations require stunning before slaughter, but there are exceptions for religious slaughter. A controversy arose in Demarks last year when it was revealed that Danes were being given religiously slaughtered meat without being told to protect the sensibilities of Muslim and Jewish citizens. That move disturbed many Danes who viewed the practice as medieval or cruel.
Norway, Poland, Sweden and Switzerland have also prohibited religious slaughter.
The Bible and Koran expressly warn of clean and unclear animals as well as Halal and Kosher meats.
Do not eat any detestable thing. These are the animals you may eat: the ox, the sheep, the goat, the deer, the gazelle, the roe deer, the wild goat, the ibex, the antelope and the mountain sheep. You may eat any animal that has a split hoof divided in two and that chews the cud. However, of those that chew the cud or that have a split hoof completely divided you may not eat the camel, the rabbit or the coney. Although they chew the cud, they do not have a split hoof; they are ceremonially unclean for you. The pig is also unclean; although it has a split hoof, it does not chew the cud. You are not to eat their meat or touch their carcasses.
Of all the creatures living in the water, you may eat any that has fins and scales. But anything that does not have fins and scales you may not eat; for you it is unclean.
Slaughtering requires the draining of the blood, which appears to have been a health based practice but was embraced as a command of God:
If the place where the Lord your God chooses to put his Name is too far away from you, you may slaughter animals from the herds and flocks the Lord has given you, as I have commanded you, and in your own towns you may eat as much of them as you want. Eat them as you would gazelle or deer. Both the ceremonially unclean and the clean may eat. But be sure you do not eat the blood, because the blood is the life, and you must not eat the life with the meat. You must not eat the blood; pour it out on the ground like water. Do not eat it, so that it may go well with you and your children after you, because you will be doing what is right in the eyes of the Lord.
In the United States, such a ban would run into serious problems with the free exercise clause. At a minimum, it would have to be shown that the religious slaughtering of animals is more cruel than the stunning technique. Religious advocates insist that, when performed properly, the religious slaughtering is fast and humane. Animal rights advocates insist that the slitting of the animal’s throat prolongs the restraint and pain of the animal.