Halal meat will no longer be produced in Denmark, where the ritual slaughter has been banned after years of campaigning by animal welfare groups. Dan Jørgensen, Minister for Agriculture and Food, backs the decision with certainty of his conscience, even as he is widely quoted by the media as saying, “animal rights come before religion”. The statement has stirred up much controversy and debate from Jewish and Muslim religious groups, which are not willing to take non-halal/kosher meat on a “platter”.

Animals in most countries are required to be stunned before slaughter to avoid excruciating pain at the time of death, but Jewish and Muslim rituals require the animal to be conscious during slaughter. Their legs and stomachs shiver, their necks twist and their bodies convulse painfully.

From the perspective of animal welfare groups, suffering of sentient animals should not be overlooked for the sake of unsympathetic religious sensibilities. Supporters of the new law point to the fact that regulations of stunning animals before death are already in place in European Union countries.

Khalil Jaffar, an Imam at the Islamic Cultural Centre in Copenhagen has testified that Islamic leaders in the country promulgated a religious decree many years ago, identifying stunned animals cut by knife as halal in Denmark.

“To eliminate all doubt, let me make it clear that slaughter according to Islamic precepts is still permitted in Denmark. This is not changing. It is important for the Danish government that everybody in Denmark can purchase meat slaughtered according to Islamic precepts without coming into conflict with their religious beliefs,” Jørgensen said.

However, Danish Halal, a non-profit halal monitoring group, has protested against the ban, calling it a “clear interference in religious freedom limiting the rights of Muslims to practise their religion in Denmark”.

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