A few days after a Copenhagen zoo sparked outrage for killing a healthy, young giraffe in order to “prevent inbreeding,” Denmark has announced that they would no longer allow religious exemptions for slaughter of animals (warning: headline picture at link is of slaughtered animal corpses). This primarily affects Jewish and Muslim people in Denmark, because in order for meat to be considered Kosher or Halal, animals must be
alive awake when they are slaughtered. Many Jewish and Muslim groups are calling this a restriction of freedom of religion.
While I disagree that this is a real restriction of freedom of religion, I also don’t think that this is the landmark animal rights victory so many people are claiming it is. To quote Peter Singer, “Neither Islam nor Judaism upholds a requirement to eat meat. And I am not calling upon Jews and Muslims to do any more than I have chosen to do myself, for ethical reasons, for more than 40 years.” Further, Denmark’s new law does not ban selling, purchasing, importing, or consuming of Kosher or Halal meat, it just prevents the slaughter from happening in Denmark.
Denmark also isn’t a champion nation for animal rights, either. Denmark is the world’s largest producer of mink pelts, where in order to obtain the pelts, they either gas minks to death or electrocute them by attaching electrodes to their anal glands. According to Humane Society International,
Mink and fox are carnivores, predators and highly inquisitive, active animals, with complex social lives. Unlike most other types of farm animals, who tend to be flock or herd species, mink are solitary by nature. Mink and fox are territorial and, in the wild, go to great lengths to defend their territories. These animals are unsuited to farming conditions and especially intensive breeding and rearing.
Kept in small, wire cages, animals on fur farms have been found to exhibit stereotypical behaviour (such as pacing along the cage wall, repetitive circling/nodding of the head, etc.) as well as self-mutilation (i.e. sucking or biting of the animal’s tail fur, or other parts of their pelts).
I know many atheists who still eat meat who criticize halal and kosher meat (or fur, or veal, etc.) as cruel. Perhaps they should watch Earthlings (available for free online), or Vegucated (available on Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Hulu Plus), or simply just read up on some factory farming facts. Many people I know who still eat meat claim that they buy “local,” as if “local” were synonymous with “ethical” (if you live in the US, odds are there is a factory farm within 50 miles of you).
Of course, there’s also “humane,” “cage free,” “free range,” and other labels, which are barely regulated by the USDA and essentially carry no meaning at all. I’ve mentioned this in talks on veganism that I’ve given previously, but remember that story in the Bible where God commands Abraham to slit his son’s throat to show his devotion to the lord? Would Abraham slitting his son’s throat be any more “humane” if he stunned Isaac first? No? Then why is it considered humane to stun an animal and then slit their throat when you don’t have to?*
I suggest that meat eaters who are celebrating this (or who criticize halal/kosher meat) take a long look at their own behaviors before criticizing others. If you’re interested in taking steps to reduce your harm of animals, check out vegankit.com.
*I’m including this asterisk to say yes, some people cannot be vegan, whether it’s due to cost, access, or health reasons. That’s why I said “when you don’t have to.”