Denmark joined a list of European nations to ban non-stun slaughter on February 17. EU regulations prohibit non-stun slaughtering of animal but give member states the leverage to make exceptions for religious slaughter. However, Poland, Sweden, Switzerland, Norway and Iceland have banned non-stunning altogether.
Slaughterhouses in Denmark will be unable to request exemptions from pre-stunning. European Commissioner for Health, Tonio Borg, said the ban “contradicts European law.”
The ban means that Muslim and Jewish communities who do not eat meat from stunned animals will need to purchase imported meat. The organisation Danish Halal and the Danish Jewish Society, Det Jodiske Samfund, believe the law impinges on religious freedom.
During a meeting with Danish Minister for Food, Agriculture and Fisheries, Dan Jorgensen on February 21, Danish Halal presented more than 20,000 signatures to convey objections over the law by the Muslim community, a community totalling to a population of approximately 250,000.
The ban has been introduced after years of campaigns against non-stun slaughtering of animals. Jorgensen said, “I am in favour of religious slaughter, but it must be done in a way that does not bring pain to the animal. This can be accomplished only by stunning.”
Danish Halal say the ban “is done under the guise of animal welfare, despite the fact that many scientific studies show the animal suffers less with properly performed ritual slaughter than when it gets a blow to the head with a nail gun.”
And that resorting to imported non-stunned meat will give rise to “greater financial burdens, less freshness of the meat and inferior security.”
A similar ban on non-stunned slaughtering in Poland last year resulted in great financial losses for the country’s farming and meat industry. Besides the loss of millions faced by Poland’s economy, its population was also set to lose an estimated 6,000 jobs due to the ban.
The New York Times in September quoted Polish farmers who complained they could lose up to 700 million euros annually by losing the trade of exporting kosher meat to Israel and Western Europe, and halal meat to countries like Iran and Turkey.
According to the World Jewish Congress all kosher meat on sale in Denmark during the past ten years has been imported: hence the new law will have little practical consequences for Jewish Danes. However, Denmark has not only offered halal meat to its own citizens, but also has a large halal meat exporting trade to Arab countries.