European regulations require animals to be stunned before they are slaughtered, but grants exemptions on religious grounds. For meat to be considered kosher under Jewish law or halal under Islamic law, the animal must be conscious when killed.
Europe granting exemption on religious grounds will be explained away via the discourse of respect rather than the more candid discourse of deference. Disregarding Europe the Danish Minister For Agriculture and Food said that “animal rights come before religion”. That is reassuring because the implication is that human rights must also come before religion. Gays, women, freethinkers and children, as human beings, should be afforded the right of total protection from the men of god.
Denmark made the headlines a fortnight back because of the Islamist double attack on a free speech event and a synagogue, which left two people dead. That seems to have prompted a belief that the Danish initiative "is motivated as much by the wish to cause fundamentalists suffering as to spare it to animals." Yet, the Danish decision came after years of lobbying from the animal welfare lobby.
From its perspective "suffering of sentient animals should not be overlooked for the sake of unsympathetic religious sensibilities.” And the evidence suggests that religious ritual does lead to gratuitous suffering. John Blackwell, president elect of the British Veterinary Association said:
Our position remains that animals should all be stunned prior to slaughter such as that they’re rendered insensible to pain at the point of death. All the evidence I’ve seen and interpreted suggests there is a welfare issue associated to the perception of pain during the period between the throat being cut and the animal’s loss of sensibility.
This holy howling comes despite the fact that both kosher and halal are for the most part imported and according to one media outlet "Denmark has not recorded any ritual slaughter in the last ten years." The Israeli response echoes the defence of the revolting religious practice of rabbis abusing babies under the pretense of religious circumcision.
This notion that people of faith should be allowed to practice their religion on others needs challenged at every turn. People are free to practice their religion on themselves. The rest of us have a right to be free from religion and that means being free not to have any religious rituals inflicted upon us. If you are opposed to the morning after pill don’t take it, same as the condom, don’t wear it.
If I were to slaughter a goat as an offering to god in the forlorn hope of inducing a Liverpool FC victory I would most likely be jailed. Yet my sporting opinion is no less worthy than a religious opinion and it has the added advantage that I can prove my team exists.
Yet if Denmark is to be taken seriously rather than cynically it must address the abomination pointed out by Andrew Brown in the Guardian:
It seems to me obvious that the slaughter of animals at the end of their lives is of far less ethical importance than the way they are treated beforehand. The cruelties of factory farming extend over an animal's whole lifetime whereas the cruelty of ritual slaughter lasts minutes at most. To complain about the halal slaughter of battery chickens or factory farmed veal is a truly monstrous absurdity.