Library of Congress Reports on Ritual Slaughter Laws in Europe

In March, the Law Library of Congress released an in-depth report on the legal status of religious slaughter in 21 European nations. The European Union’s Council Regulation 1099/2009 and the Council of Europe’s Convention for the Protection of Animals for Slaughter both stipulate that animals should be rendered insensible to pain prior to slaughter. However, they also permit individual governments to make exceptions to this requirement for ritual slaughter.

The surveyed countries fall into three categories: those that have banned all slaughter without prior stunning (Denmark, Iceland, Norway, Slovenia, and Sweden); those that mandate post-cut stunning for ritual slaughter (Austria, Estonia, Greece, and Latvia); and those that exempt religious slaughter from the broader sedation requirement provided they meet certain standards (Cyprus, France, Germany, Lithuania, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Poland, and Spain).

There are also a few notable outliers. Liechtenstein and Switzerland largely prohibit the killing of vertebrates without prior stunning but permit it for religious slaughter of poultry. Finland mandates that sedation be concurrent with the fatal cut, but legislation is pending that would make even this illegal. In two of its three regions, Belgium has recently outlawed slaughter without prior stunning (though both laws are currently facing challenges before the Belgian Constitutional Court).

By comparison, the US Humane Methods of Livestock Slaughter Act, via § 1906, exempts ritual slaughter and the “handling or other preparation of livestock” for ritual slaughter from its humane slaughter requirements.

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