A joint delegation of European Muslim and Jewish religious leaders accused Danish Agriculture Minister Dan Jørgensen of putting animal rights before religious freedom on Thursday.
Jørgensen had enacted a ban on Muslim and Jewish rituals performed without pre-stunning slaughter in February.
The delegation included the chief rabbi of Brussels, Afzal Khan of the Muslim- Jewish Forum of Greater Manchester and several other advocates of Muslim- Jewish cooperation.
The meeting was organized by New York-based Foundation for Ethnic Understanding and the Gathering of European Muslim and Jewish Leaders.
Jørgensen denied having made the statement that “animal rights come before religion,” which was attributed to him by Danish media as his rationale for the ban, participants in the gathering said.
In response, Alexander Goldberg, a Jewish chaplain from the UK told Jørgensen that the affected religious communities would judge him by his actions rather than his words and that “those actions show that you indeed put animal rights before religious rights.”
Speaking with The Jerusalem Post on Friday, Samia Hathroubi, the FFEU’s European director, said that Jørgensen told her he made efforts to prevent a widespread debate over the issue among Danes due to the rise of Islamophobia and anti-Semitism in Europe.
According to Hathroubi, Jørgensen said that he was attempting to defend the rights of Muslims and Jews to import ritually slaughtered meat, which is still legal in Denmark.
While a European Commission regulation mandating pre-stunning did come into effect last January, special provisions were made for the rights of religious minorities to practice ritual slaughter. A specific process was put in place for countries wishing to employ stricter laws on this issue but no country was required to ban such practices.
“The Foundation for Ethnic Understanding will be vigilant in fighting this injustice to the Muslim and Jewish communities,” founder Rabbi Marc Schneier said in a press release.
Hathroubi quoted Jorgensen as saying that he “knows [that] if there is a referendum, people will want to totally ban ritual slaughter,” and called Jørgensen’s assertion a “threatening argument.”
According to the FFEU, Jørgensen said “that the decision to ban slaughter without prior stunning of the animal was not something he initiated on his own, but rather the Danish government carrying out a directive of the European Union.”
“He [Jørgensen] was quite defensive at the end,” Hathroubi said of their conversation.