The Danish government has introduced a ban on the religious slaughter of animals for the production of kosher and halal meat.
The ban came into effect on Monday, and was defended by Agriculture and Food Minister Dan Jørgensen's announcement on Denmark’s TV2 that “animal rights come before religion.”
Usually, slaughterhouses stun livestock before killing them, while kosher rites demand an animal is killed by slitting its throat while it is alive and letting it bleed to death. Halal meat consumed by observant Muslims is killed in a similar way.
The move has been met with opposition from non-profit halal monitoring group Danish Halal, which has launched a petition against the ban.
It states: “The new order is a clear interference in religious freedom and limits the Muslims and Jews’ rights to practice their religion in Denmark.
“It is a procedure that is done under the guise of animal welfare, despite the fact that many scientific studies show that the animal suffers less [via a] properly performed slaughter than when it gets a blow to the head with a nail gun.”
Responding to the news, a spokesman for animal rights group PETA told HuffPost UK: "No religion needs to slaughter animals for food, and banning certain slaughter methods in which cows and other animals have their throats slit while still sensate is a step in the right direction.
"The rest of the world shouldn't feel superior, though: on factory farms, animals are crammed by the thousands into filthy and windowless sheds, wire cages, crates and other confinement systems. The only diet that is open to all religions and truly respects animal rights is a vegan one."
Israel’s deputy Minister of Religious Services Rabbi Eli Ben Dahan says the Danish government's edict is anti-Semitic.
He told The Jewish Daily Forward: “European anti-Semitism is showing its true colours across Europe and is even intensifying in the government institutions.”
Denmark’s ambassador to Israel Jesper Vahr described the rabbi's accusations as “very insulting”.
He told Ynet: “If this quote... is directed at Denmark – and from what I read it appears to be – I not only reject it but also hold it to be very insulting to a country whose citizens during World War II stood up for their Jewish countrymen and helped Jews in Nazi-occupied Denmark escape to Sweden, the result of which was that 99 per cent of Jews in Denmark survived World War II.”
However local Jewish leader Finn Schwartz denied the move was motivated by anti-Semitism, describing relations between Denmark’s Jewish community and government as usually “perfect”.
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Speaking to the Jerusalem Post, he added: “When you have religious minorities in a society you should also respect the religious minority even if really don’t like some of the things [they] are doing.
“If you want to change fundamental rules that concern religious minorities then you should have an open discussion.”
He told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency the decision had been made in consultation with the British chief rabbi’s office.
Thus Schwartz claims the new regulations will not ban the slaughter of animals after stunning with non-penetrative captive bolts.
Vahr appeared to back this up, also telling Ynet: "I have noticed that the President of the Jewish Community is quoted ... as saying that kosher slaughter is still legal in Denmark.
"That is correct: the new regulation will not ban the slaughter of animals after stunning with non-penetrative captive bolt pistols. For the Jewish community in Denmark the new regulation will not introduce any change compared to present practices."