(JTA) — The president of Denmark’s Jewish community disputed a government minister’s claims that new regulations would outlaw all kosher slaughter in the country.
“We find this an odd statement,” Finn Schwarz, the community’s president, told JTA on Thursday about statements made earlier in the week by Agriculture Minister Dan Jorgensen to the Ritzau news agency.
Jorgensen was speaking about slaughter without prior stunning — a requirement for kosher certification of meat in Jewish Orthodox law and for halal certification of meat for observant Muslims.
“There has sometimes been demand for this type of slaughter, and I want to ensure that it’s not going to happen in Denmark,” Jorgensen said, referencing a regulation that is scheduled to go into effect on Feb. 17 against slaughter without prior stunning.
But Danish Jews already agreed in 1998 to the certification as kosher of meat from cattle that were stunned with non-penetrative captive bolt pistols, Schwarz said, adding that the decision was made in consultation with the British Chief Rabbi’s office. The new regulation will not ban the slaughter of animals after stunning with non-penetrative captive bolts, he said.
Jewish Orthodox law and Muslim law require animals be intact and conscious when they are killed. Non-penetrative captive bolts were permitted because they do not wound the animal, which is slaughtered immediately before being knocked on the head.
Rabbi Yitzi Loewenthal of Copenhagen said that to his knowledge, the last shechitah performed in Denmark happened more than 10 years ago. He said the agreement on the use of captive-bolt, non-penetrating pistols may have applied to post-cut stunning, a procedure in which the animal’s head is knocked immediately after its neck is cut. Some rabbis have allowed the procedure elsewhere in the world. However, because shechitah is not regularly performed in Denmark, some issues regarding the procedure are not immediately clear, Loewenthal said.
Danish Jews took issue with the minister’s statements this week, however, because he cited the need to observe animals’ welfare, thus suggesting shechitah is cruel. He also cited the rareness of kosher slaughter, or shechitah, in Denmark as justification for a ban.
“The ministry has not banned other rarely practiced customs, so is there a focus on minorities?” Schwarz asked.