Legislation

What does the Danish halal and kosher slaughter ban mean for industry?

20-Feb-2014
Last updated the 20-Feb-2014 at 12:59 GMT - By Annie-Rose Harrison-Dunn
Danish minister says animal rights come before religion
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Denmark has banned the religious practice of slaughtering animals without stunning them first, angering religious groups but having little effect on the food industry, according to a trade group.

Within the European Union animals must be stunned before slaughter, but individual nations reserve the right to grant exemption to this rule for religious reasons. Denmark’s new law will now see the right to apply for this exemption removed, but the Danish Food and Drink Federation told FoodNavigator that there weren’t any Danish slaughterhouses exercising this right anyway. The new law came into effect on Monday this week.

Business as usual

“The new Danish regulation about halal slaughtering is only forbidden without stunning. And it had not been used in Denmark at all. It means that nothing has changed for the Danish slaughterhouses,” Gitte Hestehave, senior adviser at the Danish Food and Drink Federation (DI Fødevarer), told FoodNavigator.

Hestehave said before the ban, halal and kosher meat in Denmark could still be granted this religious status despite being stunned before slaughter, or else animals killed without stunning methods could be imported from elsewhere.

Divided opinion

Discussing the move with Danish news outlet TV2, Denmark’s minister for agriculture and food, Dan Jørgensen, said animal rights must come before religion. He told media that to his knowledge the practice of slaughtering without stunning had not been practised for many years, but an official ban would make sure no applications for exemption in Denmark could be passed. 

Lobby and certification group, Danish Halal, has vehemently opposed the change saying it has already gathered 20,000 signatures in its petition against the ban it says is a guise to limit the freedom of minorities in Denmark.

“The new order is a clear interference in religious freedom and limits Muslim and Jewish people’s right 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 with properly performed ritual slaughter than when it gets a blow to the head with a nail gun,” the group said.

Conversely, the move has been backed by the UK-based lobbyist National Secular Society along with animal welfare groups like the RSPCA that say while religious beliefs and practices should be respected, animals should only be slaughtered under the most humane conditions.

According to a 2009 US department of state report on religion in Denmark, the Islamic community is Denmark’s second largest religious community after Evangelical Lutheran Church goers, constituting 3.7% of the population (210,000 people). Meanwhile the Jewish population makes up less than 1% of the population at 7,000 people.

Denmark joins Norway, Poland, Sweden and Switzerland, where religious slaughter is already prohibited. The topic was also broached in the UK after strong pressure from animal welfare groups, but was shelved in a report from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs last May.

Related topics: Legislation, Meat, fish and savoury ingredients