Bardot group campaigns against halal animal slaughter
Last Updated: Jan 10, 2011
ROTTERDAM // The Brigitte Bardot
Foundation along with six other French animal rights groups last week
launched a campaign against ritual slaughter practices that do not first
stun the animal in France, the country with the largest Muslim and Jewish
populations in Europe.
The new campaign immediately was assailed as
being more about targeting minorities than about animal welfare. That's not
a very surprising charge since Ms Bardot has been convicted five times
before for controversial remarks about Muslims and animal rights.
the spokesman for her foundation, Christophe Marie, denied that the campaign
had any objective other than improving animal welfare. "It is ridiculous to
say that we're targeting Muslims or Jews. We conduct this campaign like any
other. It is like saying that we target the Spanish when we oppose
bullfighting or the Inuit when we oppose seal hunting."
Mr Marie said
it was "regrettable" that some anti-Muslim activists could latch on to the
campaign. The campaign had been postponed several times, he said, because
the foundation had not wanted to overlap with sensitive debates about
Muslims in France, such as the introduction of a ban on the burqa.
The new campaign is mainly aimed at the animal being slaughtered without
being stunned, either by a blow to the forehead or with electricity or gas.
Stunning is required in Europe but an exception is made for ritual slaughter
on grounds of respecting the freedom of religion. Both mainstream Jewish and
Islamic religious authorities in France oppose stunning.
Moussaoui, the head of the French Council of the Muslim Faith, last year
clearly stated his opposition to the practice. Nonetheless, some halal-certifying
bodies in France take a different position and stunning does sometimes take
place. In Jewish circles there is even more opposition to the stunning of
animals. "We maintain that stunning often goes wrong while our religious way
causes minimal suffering to the animal," said Rabbi Bruno Fiszon, speaking
on behalf of the chief rabbinate of France.
He said the new campaign
targeted Jews and Muslims. "It shows them as cruel people who have no
respect for animals." He felt that it particularly exacerbated anti-Muslim
feelings in Europe.
Animal rights groups throughout Europe are
opposed to the practice of slaughtering without stunning first. Iceland,
Norway, Sweden, Switzerland and New Zealand ban the practice. But not all
those concerned about animal welfare applaud the new campaign.
antagonises people and is not the best way to go about it," said Mara Miele,
the co-ordinator of DialRel, an EU-funded academic project that examined the
issue. "If we ban it in Europe, it still continues elsewhere. We'd rather
develop methods and procedures to improve animal welfare that can then be
She did confirm that very recent scientific studies show
that animals suffer more during religious slaughter, something that had long
been disputed. But she said: "We have to balance the rights of people to
practise their religion with the rights of animals." Inevitably, DialRel's
work itself has been criticised by religious and animal-welfare groups.
Other than an outright ban on ritual slaughter or at least mandating
stunning before the procedure, animal rights groups insist as a bare minimum
on the clear labelling of meat and meat products that come from ritually
slaughtered animals. They say that a significant proportion of kosher and
halal meat ends up with general consumers.
"Consumers have a right to
know what they are buying and not to buy meat from an animal that was
slaughtered halal or kosher if they do not want to," said Mr Marie, the
spokesman for the Brigitte Bardot Foundation.
A law to introduce such
labelling was approved by the European parliament last year but was
subsequently vetoed in the EU's ruling council of ministers. It was opposed
vigorously by both Jews and Muslims.
Rabbi Fiszon said that labelling
kosher and halal products would once again single out Muslims and Jews.
Instead he suggested a labelling system not mentioning any method used to
slaughter the animal, "because none of them entirely guarantee that the
animal does not suffer". It is a position that has also been embraced by
Muslim consumer organisations in France.