Banning Traditional Animal Slaughter, Denmark Stokes Religous Ire : The Salt The country's move to require animals to be stunned before being killed is seen by some as an affront to religious methods of slaughter. But now Jews and Muslims are working together to protest it.
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Banning Traditional Animal Slaughter, Denmark Stokes Religous Ire

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Banning Traditional Animal Slaughter, Denmark Stokes Religous Ire

Banning Traditional Animal Slaughter, Denmark Stokes Religous Ire

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Audie Cornish.


And I'm Melissa Block. A conflict in Denmark has animal welfare pitted against religious freedoms. The country has decided that all animals must be stunned before being killed, a move that effectively bans ritual slaughter in its purest form, according to Muslim and Jewish traditions. While some consider this a minor administrative change, it's having an unsettling effect on Denmark's religious minorities, as Sidsel Overgaard reports.

SIDSEL OVERGAARD, BYLINE: For Danes like animal welfare activist Peter Mollerup, this is a pretty straightforward issue.

PETER MOLLERUP: The Danish legislation tells us that if you want to kill an animal, you should do it as quick and as painless that is possible.

OVERGAARD: And he says that means an animal should not be conscious when it's killed.

MOLLERUP: I think that it is much better to help the animal here than to help people that think something.

OVERGAARD: In reality, no animals have been killed in Denmark without stunning for the last 10 years. Denmark's roughly 8,000 Jews import all Kosher meat. The issue is a little more complicated for Denmark's 230,000 Muslims. Many Islamic scholars say stunning, while not ideal, is still halal, but some Muslims, like Suma Hamudi(ph), who's come to the Islamic Society of Denmark for the evening prayer, aren't so sure.

SUMA HAMUDI: (Through translator) So now I have decided to buy only from those who import meat so we can be sure it's slaughtered 100 percent correctly.

OVERGAARD: But Hamudi says even for Muslims who are willing to buy Danish meat, the new rules smacks of intolerance.

HAMUDI: (Through translator) We just don't feel we have respect for our choices. It's becoming harder and harder to be a Muslim in Europe in general. You understand? There are limits on what we can and what we can't do.

BENYONES ESSABAR: I think it's mainly - I will not say Islamophobia, but it is a lot of people afraid of different things.

OVERGAARD: Benyones Essabar is with Danish Halal, a group that advocates for stricter adherence to Islamic law in the meat industry.

ESSABAR: The religion itself in Europe doesn't play the big role as it does in other countries. So every time we speak about something that have with religion, it will always be looked at as something from medieval times, and it's something that doesn't have any scientific place in our modern days.

OVERGAARD: Both Jews and Muslims say ritual slaughter is humane. Even so, Britain's top veterinarian recently suggested his country might do well to follow Denmark's lead and the possibility that this policy could spread to other countries or other traditions is Essabar's biggest fear.

ESSABAR: Now they've banned the ritual slaughter. The next step they are debating is actually banning the circumcision of boys.

OVERGAARD: In that ongoing circumcision debate, it's religious rights versus a child's right to self determination. Finn Schwarz heads the Jewish community in Denmark.

FINN SCHWARZ: If you abandon circumcision in Denmark, within very short time, there will be no Jews in Denmark. And we can see on Facebook and all other places people are saying, well then leave.

OVERGAARD: And yet, even though Schwarz accuses Denmark of meddling in the private lives of its religious minorities, he insists this has more to do with politics than anti-Semitism.

SCHWARZ: Today we are in a situation where we are living in a very complex world, but these issues, the circumcision, the slaughtering, it's so easy. And everybody can have their own opinion like here.

OVERGAARD: Perhaps there is one bright spot in all of this for Denmark's Jews and Muslims, captured recently in a single moment on Danish TV. In one of the many debates featuring these two men on the same side of the table, Schwarz reached out to pat Essabar on the back.

SCHWARZ: (Speaking foreign language)

OVERGAARD: I totally agree, he said, and it's nice that we can agree on something once in a while. For NPR News, I'm Sidsel Overgaard in Denmark.

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