Denmark on Thursday joined the growing list of European countries to ban kosher slaughter. The ban is to take effect next week, after Denmark's Agriculture Minister signed the order Thursday.
The ban is largely symbolic, because there are currently no kosher slaughterhouses in Denmark. Nearly all meat for the country's small Jewish community is imported. Despite this, the country's 6,000 Jews inundated government offices with protests over the ban.
Speaking to reporters, Minister Dan Jørgensen said that “animal rights come before religious rights. I am in favor of religious slaughter, but it must be done in a way that does not bring pain to the animal. This can be accomplished only by stunning.”
According to Jewish law, stunning an animal before slaughtering renders it unkosher. Stunning damages various body parts and causes the animal to hemhorrage, making removal of the blood via cutting the arteries and veins impossible.
In the wake of Denmark's move, Rabbi Menachem Margolin, head of an umbrella group of EU Jewish organizations, called on Denmark's Prime Minister to cancel the order. At a recent meeting with top EU officials, Rabbi Margolin was told that shechita bans were in contradiction to EU laws guaranteeing freedom of religion.
In a letter to Danish officials, Margolin wrote that conducting kosher slaughter was a “bare minimum necessary for the survival of a Jewish community anywhere. Shechita bans in Denmark are hurtful to Jews in the country, in Europe, and throughout the world.”
With the ban, Denmark joins a growing list of countries where Jewish ritual slaughter is illegal, including Poland, Holland, Switzerland, and others.