Sweden is the only EU country today where slaughter according to the rules of kashrut and halal is legally prohibited.
Jewish and Muslim organisations have long argued that this is in breach of the freedom of religion of religious minorities.
On 30 September, the Central Council for Jews in Sweden and the Muslim Council of Sweden made public a joint statement in which they advocate a method of slaughter that would satisfy religious rules and assuage concerns regarding animal welfare.
Last April, the Swedish Animal Welfare Agency, a governmental authority , completed a report on methods used for religious slaughter in other countries, such as those used to produce halal meat in New Zealand.
This report has been referred to several different authorities as well as NGOs, including the Central Council for Jews in Sweden.
In a joint statement on this report, the Central Council for Jews in Sweden, the Muslim Council of Sweden and the Brotherhood Movement (a Christian Social Democratic organisation), wrote that “the current laws of slaughter is in opposition to the European Convention for Human Rights, which since 1995 also is Swedish law that protects freedom of religion”.
According to Swedish law, animals may only be slaughtered under anaesthesia.
Since this means that the animal would be immobile, it does not satisfy the criteria for kashrut, which say that an animal must be healthy and able to move before it is slaughtered.
Importing kosher or halal meat is permitted, but it is about 100 to 200 per cent more expensive than regular meat in Sweden.
The statement recommends that “an exception concerning religious slaughter according to the EU directive and the European Convention should be incorporated into the law of animal welfare”.
The joint statement criticises the report by the Swedish Animal Welfare Agency for not including an examination of the method of slaughter called “after-cut stunning.”
This method has been accepted both by the Central Council of Jews and by some Muslim groups in Sweden as suitable for kashrut and halal slaughter.
The common view in Sweden is that slaughtering animals without giving them anaesthesia causes unnecessary suffering and goes against principles of animal welfare.
The government will present a bill on the matter after the referral process has been completed, which will probably happen early next year.
Reprinted by permission of European Jewish Press