Belgium’s recent ban on the traditional Jewish and Muslim method of slaughtering animals has been applauded by animal rights activists and condemned by religious leaders who see the ban as a threat to their communities. The issue under fire is whether to allow religious exemptions to European Union rules that state animals must be rendered unconscious before slaughter, which supporters say is more humane. The US has similar regulations, but allows for religious exemptions.
Both Judaism and Islam require that animals be healthy and unharmed before slaughter; all Jewish religious authorities and some Muslim ones interpret this to preclude stunning before slaughter. Religious leaders say that minimizing an animal’s suffering has always been a central tenet. Ritual slaughter is performed with a sharp blade to the neck, which is quick and believed to be nearly painless.
Stunning necessitates rendering animals unconscious through blunt force, electric shock, gassing or a steel bolt that penetrates the skull. While the North American Meat Institute maintains that stunning “promotes animal welfare and meat quality,” kosher-certifying authorities say that no form of stunning before slaughter is permissible.
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