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Discrimination through the Back Door
Is Something Rotten in the State of Denmark?

It isn’t all that often that Jews and Muslims find common ground on thorny political issues, but they have done so this week in Denmark, where they are jointly protesting a new law banning the slaughter of animals for the production of halal and kosher meat. Both groups take issue with the government’s assertion that “animal rights come before religion,” viewing it instead as a pretext for religious intolerance and discrimination.

Perhaps their case is slightly overstated. The Jewish Daily Forward commented in response to the ban that “European anti-Semitism is showing its true colours across Europe, and is even intensifying in the government institutions.” And Danish Halal, which launched a petition against the ban, said it was “a clear interference in religious freedom limiting the rights of Muslims and Jews to practice their religion in Denmark.” As the Economist has pointed out, “There are no slaughterhouses which use the ritual method in Denmark, because there is not enough local demand to keep such a facility going; people who want to eat ritually slaughtered meat simply import the product, and they face no obstacle.”

But if it is such a non-issue, why was the ban passed in the first place? Why has it proved so popular among the Danish public? And what of this claim that animal rights trump religious rights, when almost all farmed animals are kept in cruel conditions? Whatever the merits of this particular case, it has sparked a larger, legitimate debate within the EU about where national self-determination ends and religious intolerance begins. We wrote about a similar case a couple of years ago, when German lawmakers first banned, then unbanned the traditional form of Jewish circumcision (without anaesthetics).

In the wake of Switzerland’s twofold precedent —its ban of minarets in 2009 and its recent cap on immigration—it is likely that populist parties across Europe will pitch similar proposals to their electorates. Trivial though the issue in Denmark may seem, it could set an important precedent for how Europe reconciles conflicting values.

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  • Andrew Allison

    “But if it is such a non-issue, why was the ban passed in the first place? Why has it proved so popular among the Danish public? And what of this claim that animal rights trump religious rights, when almost all farmed animals are kept in cruel conditions?” It’s hard to see any explanation other than religious intolerance. To the extent that freedom of religion is a human right, then the Danes are putting animal rights above human rights and should, logically, ban the slaughter of any animal for food.

    • Corlyss

      “Why has it proved so popular among the Danish public?”

      Because the Europeans as exemplified by the EU have entered an absurdist zone of irrationality about stewardship of the planet.

  • qet

    See, I am one who accepted at face value the suggestion that the law is the product of the new-age untethered hyper-left-liberalism evident all over Europe lately. After all, not too long ago the Danes proposed a law that would require pedestrians to wear helmets. But perhaps I am naive in my acceptance?

  • rheddles

    What happened to freedom of association? I see no reason why the native Danes should allow themselves to be overrun by people who do not wish to live as Danes do.

    • Loader2000

      Then close your borders. I have no problem with that. However, don’t let people in, than ban certain of their religious practices that pose absolutely no harm to humans or to humans rights.

      • rheddles

        Unfortunately they joined the EU, so they’re closing their borders by other means. We’ll see more of this.

    • Jim__L

      Er, by what principle do you condemn medieval England’s explusion of the Jews, then?

    • Andrew Allison

      This is not about immigration. It’s about the symbolic gesture of banning a religious practice (ritual slaughter) which is not, in fact, practiced in Denmark. Given the cruelty endured by most farmed animals, the targets of the symbolism seem clear. The next step is to ban the sale of ritually slaughtered meat, and the one after that its consumption — we’ve seen this movie, and know how it ends.

  • Corlyss

    “the government’s assertion that “animal rights come before religion,”
    That’s absurd on its face. This from a modern European state?

  • charlesrwilliams

    It is one thing to oppose immigration, especially of people from alien cultures. It is another to harass minorities that are present already in your country.

  • Ulrik Møller

    The law that was passed made it illegal to slaughter an animal without using sedation. It’s still possible to slaughter an animal according to the Quran, in fact, almost all meat in Denmark is “Halal” because alot of it is exported. This lawchange won’t change this fact.

    Just half a year ago many Danish Christians was outraged that they had to buy Halal-meat (the only real difference, is that a passage from the Quran is said by a muslim before the animal is killed) and wanted to implement a way to tell if the meat was Halal or not. This, and the belief by many danes that Halal is very cruel to animals, is mainly the reason why the law is somewhat popular i believe, although it dosn’t make any sense.

    All Kosher meat in Denmark is imported (but it’s true that this law outlaws the production of it), however nothing restricts this import.

    All my sources are in danish, so I’m not sure how useful they’ll be if you want to check them.

    This law on the other hand is a clear sign of the populism seen in Denmark, since this law hasn’t changed anything at all and still gotten a great deal of attention, both in Denmark and and the rest of the world it seems. It is however true that Denmark is slowly becomming more and more intolerant of immigrants, mainly due to the media and political agenda. This I fear in not only something we’ll see in Denmark but is also becomming a problem in the rest of the world.

    In response to qet: I believe the law you are talking about was a suggestion that all children was required to wear helmet when riding a bike? The suggestion was dropped very quickly, as there was no support for it. Otherwise I’d like to see your sources – since i’ve heard nothing like what you suggest.

    – A guy from Denmark

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