Written By: Andrew Hebert
When religion and law are in conflict, which takes precedent?[i] This question has plagued nations since the dawn of democracy, but not necessarily the dawn of time, as Dan Murphy explained in his recent article on the topic.[ii] Murphy noted that unlike ancient monarchies or dictatorships, most modern democracies vow to separate church and state.[iii] This separation of religion and democracy has fostered disagreement and tension between people’s beliefs across a wide variety of issues.[iv] One such issue is animal sacrifice.
Forms of animal sacrifice have been recorded dating back to the Neolithic Revolution.[v] Today, animal sacrifice is defined as “the ritual killing and offering of an animal (or part of an animal), usually as part of a religious ritual or to appease or maintain favor with a deity.”[vi] Sects of almost every major religion have performed some form of animal sacrifice at some point in history.[vii] Today, however, few religious groups still practice animal sacrifice.[viii]
Recently, several countries in the European Union have taken a firm stance against animal sacrifice.[ix] Denmark, Germany, Norway, Sweden, Estonia, and Lithuania already have regulations limiting or banning ritual slaughter.[x] In addition, Belgium and Denmark have banned kosher and halal slaughter outright.[xi] Other countries, like the Netherlands, have passed strict constraints on religious slaughter, essentially forcing Jewish and Islamic groups to develop practices considered more humane[AC1] .[xii]
“Although such authorities as Temple Grandin have declared that ritual slaughter, done swiftly and properly by well-trained personnel, is as humane as conventional captive bolt stunning, nevertheless, animal rights activists have consistently portrayed the procedure as cruel and outdated.”[xiii] As Murphy also notes, one particular challenge is that “in the European countries with a legacy of anti-Semitism, as well as the current influx of Muslim immigrants, demanding an end to ritual slaughter, even if the intention is to advance animal welfare, heightens tensions in those communities.”[xiv]
Regardless of which side you stand on in this animal sacrifice-animal rights debate, there are countless authorities that both sides have cited to back their beliefs.[xv] Ultimately, the conflict between animal sacrifice and animal rights does not seem to be nearing a compromise anytime soon. It will be interesting to see how the European Union handles it. After all, it may only be a matter of time until North America is faced with addressing this same tension.
[i] Dan Murphy, Murphy: Rituals vs. Reactionaries, Drovers (Jan. 9, 2018, 8:00 AM), https://www.drovers.com/article/murphy-rituals-vs-reactionaries.
[iv] See Id.
[v] Animal Sacrifice, Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Animal_sacrifice (last visited Jan. 24, 2018).
[vii] See Id.
[viii] See Id.
[ix] Murphy, supra note i.
[xi] Adam Withnall, Denmark Bans Kosher and Halal Slaughter as Minister Says ‘Animal Rights Come Before Religion,’ Independent (Feb. 18, 2014, 9:46 PM), http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/denmark-bans-halal-and-kosher-slaughter-as-minister-says-animal-rights-come-before-religion-9135580.html.
[xii] Murphy, supra note i.
[xv] See Siobhan McFadyen, Muslims Urged Not to Slaughter Animals in the Streets of France at Eid, Daily Express (Sept. 10, 2016, 5:26 PM), https://www.express.co.uk/news/world/709345/Muslims-urged-not-to-SLAUGHTER-ANIMALS-in-the-streets-of-France-at-Eid-al-Adha.