Denmark's Agriculture and Food Minister Dan Jørgensen has signed into law a regulation that bans religious slaughter, the World Jewish Congress reported.
“Animal rights come before religion,” Jørgensen said in an interview with Denmark’s TV2 television news.
The law, which will go into effect on Monday, requires that all animals be stunned prior to slaughter and effectively counters shechita (Jewish religious slaughter).
Both Muslim and Jewish communities in Denmark have voiced strong opposition to the measure, saying that it impinges on their religious freedom. According to Jewish orthodox and Muslim law, animals must be fully conscious and unhurt when they are killed.
Jørgensen rejected the argument of religious freedom, saying: “When they [the religious communities] are upset about the ban even though they have not taken advantage of the exemptions available, it can only be because in the future they would like to carry out slaughter without stunning.”
According to the World Jewish Congress, the new measure will actually not greatly affect Denmark's 6,000-member Jewish community, which has been importing their kosher meat from abroad for over a decade.
Still, the new regulations mean that pre-stunning will now be mandatory and that local slaughterhouses will no longer be able to apply for an exemption.
Following the news of legislation, Rabbi Menachem Margolin, director of the European Jewish Association (EJA), said he will ask for the help of the European Union to reverse the decree.
"It has been proven scientifically that kosher slaughtering does not allow the animal to feel pain,” the rabbi told European Commissioner for Health and Consumer Policy Tonio Borg. "[It] does not inflict more pain to animals than other methods commonly used in Europe."
Margolin vowed to "fight against this injustice vigorously," emphasizing the importance of kosher slaughter for the continuation of Jewish life.
Israel condemns the measure
Israeli Deputy Minister of Religious Affairs Eli Ben Dahan responded swiftly to the news of the new Danish legislation on Thursday evening, condemning it and arguing that the law was in fact symptomatic of the larger anti-Semitic atmosphere currently holding sway over Europe.
"European anti-Semitism has shown its true face and is found even in the spheres of government," Ben Dahan said. "I call on the Danish Ambassador to Israel to prevent the implementation of this ban on kosher ritual slaughter. We will not take this sitting down."