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German Jewish and Turkish Muslim community leaders spoke out against a proposal to ban ritual slaughter.

Stephan Kramer, the secretary general of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, and representatives of the Turkish community in Germany accused the German Federal Association of Veterinarians of fomenting anti-religious prejudices.

The veterinarians’ association said it considers ritual slaughter without first stunning the animal to be torture. Its president, Ernst Breitling, suggested the current law for protecting animals be improved.. Germany’s Minister of Agriculture Horst Seehofer has rejected the proposal, telling reporters that “no politician can avoid the guarantee of religious freedom … when religious communities wish to make use of this right.”

Seehofer told the ARD TV news magazine Monday that an estimated 500,000 sheep are slaughtered in Germany each year according to the Muslim halal practice, which is similar to the kosher practice. All kosher butchers and most Muslim butchers forbid stunning the animal beforehand, and both Jews and Muslims require that an animal be killed with one sweep of the knife through the throat. The veterinarians’ association had commissioned an expert’s opinion, which found that most animals that are slaughtered without being stunned end up suffering. A ban against Muslim ritual slaughter without stunning was lifted in 2002 after a Muslim butcher of Turkish background appealed an earlier ruling. The German Supreme Court found that slaughtering followed by draining the animal of its blood was protected for religious purposes.

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