An American diplomat said European laws governing the humane treatment of animals must include religious exemptions for Jewish and Islamic slaughtering practices, lest nations be seen as hostile to religious minorities.
“Laws limiting Jews from practicing their religion, including laws banning kosher slaughter, were enacted in Europe’s not-too-distant past for the purpose of making it difficult for Jews to live their lives. One of the first acts of the Nazi regime was to pass such a law,” Deborah Lipstadt, the U.S. State Department’s special envoy to monitor and combat antisemitism, told a European Commission meeting on Thursday.
The commission is the cabinet government of the European Union.
Ms. Lipstadt’s remarks came during the Freedom of Religion and Ritual Slaughter Conference, in which attendees are discussing laws that require the “stunning” of animals into unconsciousness before slaughter, which advocates say is more humane. Belgium and Finland are among the EU nations that have instituted such laws.
Practitioners of Islamic halal or Jewish kosher rules require animals to be conscious when slaughtered; otherwise, the food is not permissible for observant adherents of the two faiths.
Ms. Lipstadt, a noted Holocaust scholar who was sworn in as a special envoy in May, told the meeting the stunning requirement could “force some individuals to abandon religious or cultural practices,” and must be balanced with protections for religious minorities. She posted excerpts of her comments on her office’s Twitter account.
“At a time when we are seeing rising antisemitism, anti-Muslim sentiment, and xenophobia across Europe, this type of legislation reinforces the perception that members of religious minority groups are unwelcome in some countries. What a distressing time to be a Jew or a Muslim,” she said.
Ms. Lipstadt added, “There’s an easy way to both promote animal welfare during slaughter [and] respect the rights of members of religious minority groups. By exempting ritual slaughter from these laws, countries can ensure animals are treated more humanely while preserving rights.”
The issue of ritual slaughter has been a contentious one for more than 25 years in Europe. In December 2020, the European Court of Justice rejected challenges to the Flemish region of Belgium’s ban on the slaughter of animals that have not been stunned, but said member states must respect the religious freedom “of Jewish and Muslim believers to manifest their religion.”
The Washington Times has contacted European Union officials for comment on the meeting.