Islamic scholar Imam Khalid Latif – who is a university chaplain for the New York University – has criticised the sweeping ban imposed on halal and kosher religious slaughter procedures by the Danish government.
In an opinion piece published by the Time magazine, the scholar said that the ban singles out the slaughtering methods used by Muslims and Jews while failing to address the many issues of how animals were treated at every stage of the production process before slaughter.
Imam Latif insisted that the halal slaughter procedure was humane, and the explicit regulations under Islamic law ensure that animals suffer minimally. He argued that the claim that stunning was more humane than slitting the throat of the animal was questionable, saying that many Muslims find the process of stunning to be religiously problematic.
Regulations to ensure humane slaughter under Islamic law prohibit the use of a dull blade, he said, and explained that the halal procedure requires use of a sharp blade that cuts quickly through the major veins in the throat so that blood can be drained from the animal before eating.
Rights of minority communities
“The Danish government is failing in multiple ways with this ban. It makes no sense to engage in legislation that seems to infringe upon the rights of minority communities. The ban fails to address the real problems in the meat industry — how animals are treated. By focusing only on the slaughtering method,” he said.
In 2014, Denmark extended to the Muslim and Jewish communities the European law banning halal and kosher slaughter procedures unless animals are stunned before slaughtering. Prior to 2014, religious groups could apply for an exemption from stunning before slaughter on religious grounds.
Slaughter of animals under Muslim halal and the Jewish kosher systems requires that animals for consumption be killed with a single cut across the throat while the animal is still alive and conscious and then bled before the meat is consumed. Both Muslims and Jews consider any procedure in which the animal is stunned or rendered unconscious before slaughtering a violation of religious regulations.
The regulation banning halal and kosher slaughter of animals was signed into law in 2014 following years of intense campaigning by animal rights groups. A public debate was sparked by reports that citizens were being served halal meat without their knowledge. The ban sparked a strong reaction from the Muslim and the Jewish communities, especially after Danish Minister for Agriculture and Food Dan Jørgensen reportedly said animal rights come before religion.
A spokesperson for the non-profit group, Danish Halal, described the ban as a clear interference in religious freedom limiting the rights of Muslims and Jews to practice their religion in Denmark. The group also launched a petition against the ban. Chief Rabbi David Lau also criticised the move, saying it was a serious and severe blow to the Jewish faith and to Jews of Denmark.