“Animal welfare takes precedence over religion,” the Danish Ministry of Agriculture announced as the ban on ritual slaughter went into effect. There have been the usual accusations of anti-Semitism and Islamophobia from Jews and Muslims, although both communities are still free to import meat from animals slaughtered in their own way.
In most European countries, including the UK, it is only considered humane to slaughter an animal if it is stunned before its throat is slit. Muslim and Jewish rules, however, require the animal to be completely healthy, intact, and conscious at the time of slaughter. Many Muslims and Jews insist that the quick technique of ritual slaughter keeps the animal from suffering. But animal welfare activists and their supporters disagree.
Some Jews and Muslims are outraged. A group called Danish Halal describes the law change as “a clear interference with religious freedom.” “European anti-Semitism is showing its true colors,” the Israeli minister said.
These disputes can really shed light on our attitude towards small communities. I remember that fears about halal slaughter were expressed in Bradford in 1984, halal was declared one of the obstacles to Muslim integration and a consequence of the lack of integration. But what is really remarkable is the complete indifference to the cruel treatment of animals slaughtered for secular meals.
The cruelties extend over the lifetime of farmed animals, while the cruelty of ritual slaughter lasts a few minutes at the most. Therefore, complaints about the halal slaughter of farm-raised chickens and calves look like monstrous absurdity.
In the Danish context, this is especially evident. The pig industry feeds almost everyone in Europe who is not Jewish or Muslim, it is a monstrous engine of everyday suffering, despite the pre-slaughter stun. The new Minister of Agriculture, Dan Jorgensen, noted that 25 piglets a day die on Danish farms – they do not even have time to send them to the slaughterhouse; that half of the sows have open sores and 95% have their tails brutally cut off, which is illegal according to EU regulations. This is done because pigs bite each other while in cramped cages.
This kind of cruelty is considered justified as it makes money for the pig farmers. Very few people see this as a serious ethical problem. There are two other reasons for irony regarding the Danish case.
Firstly, the country was most recently at the center of international outrage over the slaughter of a giraffe, completely humane, and then with the help of its corpse, first they studied biology, and then fed the lions, which must have enjoyed it. The question here is how humane zoos are in general. Of course, Marius, the unfortunate giraffe, lived a short life infinitely better and more interesting than any of the six million pigs born and slaughtered in Denmark every year.
Secondly, Jorgensen, who enforced the ban on ritual slaughter, is in fact the worst enemy of livestock farms. In a series of articles and speeches, he stated that Danish factories need to keep clean and that the current situation is unbearable. He at least understands the hypocrisy of attacking only the cruelty of the circumstances of the death of an animal, and not all the realities of his life.