Several Jewish groups issued statements this week slamming Denmark for last month’s ban on Jewish ritual slaughter on the grounds of animal rights, despite the country continuing to sanction bestiality.
Denmark is one of several European countries in which sexual intercourse with animals is permitted by law. The country’s legalized bestiality has even attracted sex tourists from Norway, the Norwegian Afterposten newspaper reported in 2011.
Agriculture and Food Minister Dan Jørgensen banned all slaughter without pre-stunning last month.
Importation of kosher and hallal meat is still legal.
Jørgensen was quoted by local media as hanging his decision on the argument that “animal rights come before religion,” a statement he later disavowed during a meeting with Jewish and Muslim communal leaders.
Denmark’s legalized bestiality, however, puts the argument that the ban was engineered to protect animals into doubt, several leading European rabbis argue. Jewish organizations have doubted Denmark’s animal rights record in the past, with the Conference of European Rabbis recently issuing a statement calling the ban “a fig leaf intended to cover the country’s woeful record on animal welfare.”
In the statement, CER President Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt referred to the recent outrage surrounding the killing of a healthy giraffe and four lions at a Copenhagen zoo. He asserted that “as the media continue to report stories about perfectly healthy animals being slaughtered for no good reason, it becomes ever more apparent that this is less about animal welfare and much more about the politics of immigration and integration.”
According to Ben Williamson of PETA UK, an animal rights organization in Britain, “Denmark is one of the few remaining NATO countries that still mutilates and kills live animals during medical training exercises.”
Williamson did, however, commend Denmark for its ban on shechita, which he termed one of the “least humane methods of slaughter.”
In a statement to The Jerusalem Post on Thursday, Goldschmidt, whose great-grandfather served as the Denmark’s chief rabbi, called the country’s legalized bestiality “another example which clearly shows that the issue at hand is not the rights of animals but a society set to limit the religious freedom of minority religions at its midst.”
Denmark, he accused, can no longer lay claim to its past legacy of “tolerance and acceptance towards religious minorities.”
Rabbi Menachem Margolin, president of the Rabbinical Center of Europe, another continental rabbinical organization, said that the dichotomy between allowing sex with animals who cannot give consent and disallowing ancient religious traditions calls into question the sincerity of those who say that the ban is not anti-semitic.
Those supporting the ban are hypocrites, he added.
“As long as hunting and bestiality are allowed in Denmark, the ban against shechita is populist at best,” Rabbi Yitzchock Loewenthal of Chabad of Denmark remarked.
Rabbi Marc Schneier of the New- York based Foundation for Ethnic Understanding, whose European representatives recently met with Jørgensen, called the ban “pathetic,” stating that a country that “legalizes animal brothels” and lacks “humane factory-farming standards” cannot claim the moral authority to ban shechita.
“This ban is nothing more than a political stunt to appease a growing far-right faction in Denmark,” he said.
“Denmark was one of the countries that pressured Israel not to move forward on even more stringent legislation regarding sale of furs in our country. How can one lobby for the production and sale of fur and claim to be protecting animals with anti-shechita legislation,” asked MK Dov Lipman. “It is purely about religious practice.”
The Danish Agriculture Ministry did not respond to an email request for comment.