U.S. Islamic Cleric Criticizes Ban On Halal And Kosher Animal Slaughter By Denmark

Imam Khalid Latif, an Islamic cleric who is a university Chaplain for New York University and a Chaplain for the NYPD, has criticized the sweeping ban imposed on halal and kosher religious slaughter procedures by the Danish government. Latif said the ban singles out the slaughtering methods used by Jews and Muslims while failing to address the many issues of how animals are treated at every stage of the production process before slaughter.

In an opinion piece published by Time Magazine, Latif insisted that the halal slaughter procedure is humane, and the explicit regulations under Islamic law ensure that animals suffer minimally. He argued that the claim that stunning is 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, according to Latif, prohibit the use of a dull blade. Latif 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.

“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…”

In 2014, Denmark extended to the religious Jewish and Muslim communities the European law banning religious 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 the Jewish kosher and Muslim halal 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.

Jews and Muslims consider any procedure in which the animal is stunned or rendered unconscious before slaughtering a violation of religious regulations. Members of both religious communities are prohibited from eating meat killed in any manner besides the manner prescribed by their religious laws.

The regulation banning religious 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 Jewish and Muslim communities, especially after the 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 criticized the move, saying it was a “serious and severe blow to the Jewish faith and to Jews of Denmark.”

The Israeli Deputy Minister for Religious Services, Rabbi Eli Ben Dahan, reacted in outrage, saying, “European anti-Semitism is showing its true colors across Europe and is even intensifying in the government institutions.”

The charge of anti-Semitism sparked a strong reaction from the Danish authorities. According to the Times of Israel, Denmark’s ambassador to Israel said the accusation was “very insulting.”

“If this quote by the deputy religious affairs minister 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.”

[Image Via Wikimedia Creative Commons]