During these days, the Muslim festival of sacrifice „Id al-Adha“, the most important Islamic festival, is celebrated. Every Muslim who can afford it has to offer a sacrifice to it, and it is customary to visit and entertain relatives, friends and acquaintances. At the same time, it is the climax of the Hajj, the pilgrimage to Mecca, on the 10th of the Islamic month „Dhu I-Hijah“. So it’s a time-honored tradition. That in itself wouldn’t be worth mentioning if it weren’t for the butchering thing.
Kosher butchering means that the carotid artery, neck veins, trachea and esophagus as well as the vagus nerves are severed with one cut. The meaning behind this is that the animal bleeds completely, since in both Islam and Judaism, the blood is considered the seat of life that must be returned to the earth. Only completely bled animals are suitable for consumption. And this is done with full awareness. So, the animals face a long agony. This is opposed to the Animal Protection Act, which clearly states that any unjustified infliction of pain, suffering, damage and severe fear must be avoided during slaughter (§4 Z. 13 TSchG). Kosher butchering without stunning is prohibited with two exceptions, emergency slaughter and ritual slaughter.
From the point of view of animal protection (and this has constitutional status in Austria after all), kosher butchering is absolutely to be rejected. Based on scientific findings, it is known that the blood supply to the brain also continues through vessels in the spine and deep neck that are not severed and refer to recordings of slaughtered animals that endure a death struggle lasting several minutes, although the trachea and main arteries were visibly severed. Immediate loss of consciousness is therefore not the case for all animals when they are slaughtered. Also, an insistence on slaughtering without prior stunning with reference to the need to bleed out is not convincing, since a stunned animal bleeds out in the same way as an animal that has not been stunned. Also, even the best bleeding will still leave blood residue in the flesh, so it doesn’t count as an argument. Kosher butchering without anesthetic is a cruel death torture.
It is still allowed in Austria, but under certain conditions. A veterinarian must be always present and the animal must be properly anesthetized immediately after the cut. Which is not followed in many cases. Despite the official separation of church and state, the practice of religion still takes precedence over animal welfare. Even the ECJ (European Court of Justice) says that the member states can enact stricter regulations with reference to animal welfare, such as an anesthetic requirement. There are now kosher butchering bans in Norway, Denmark, Iceland, Liechtenstein and New Zealand. So, it’s entirely possible. Nevertheless, many sheep in Austria still have to suffer this martyrdom every year.
One problem is the appropriation of the topic by anti-Jewish and Islamophobic groups, so that it is not about animal welfare but about political appropriation. Under the guise of animal welfare, various politicians are railing against the slaughter, when in reality they want to denigrate these religious communities, and that’s all. One has to distinguish the concerns of the animal rights organizations, which, regardless of the person or religious affiliation, uncover grievances and want to ensure that animal suffering is no longer legally covered. Nevertheless, the corresponding religious communities see a restriction of their religious freedom in this. But what kind of God tells people to massacre his own creation? Religious freedom is important and worth striving for, but so is secularization in our latitudes, the clear separation of state and religion. What counts is animal welfare and not causing unnecessary suffering. But that is the case with kosher butchering, as the RespekTiere association impressively expresses at its rallies. It is high time to put an end to this practice and ban it.
In summary, it can be said that there is a clear yes to the free exercise of religion, as long as no living being suffers from it, no matter which religious community it is. Only a ban on kosher butchering can end the unnecessary suffering of the many sheep.