Negation of the suffering of farm animals against political instrumentalization of the animal question vis-à-vis religious groups? Since the publication of several articles highlighting the decision of the slaughterhouses of Vitré and Trémorel to stop ritual slaughter, a fiery debate has taken hold of social networks. Despite the fact that the decision is specific to its two slaughterhouses, the Intermarché group quickly found itself in the crossfire, embroiled in a controversy thorny which divides even within the defenders of the animal cause.
For the two slaughterhouses: a “societal awareness”
Revealed by our colleagues from Ouest France on July 17, the decision of the slaughterhouses of Vitré and Trémorel had at the time been little talked about. Since July 1, the company SVA (Vitrean Slaughtering Company Jean Rozé) has indeed decided to put an end to slaughter without prior stunning. A choice motivated by “societal awareness”. Contacted by Le Télégramme, the Les Mousquetaires group explained that it understood the decision of its two slaughterhouses, stating that “society’s general expectations regarding animal welfare have changed very significantly in recent years”. Within the Breton SVA, “of the 300,000 cattle slaughtered each year, 15% were concerned”.
A controversial choice
Since July 28, after an article in the newspaper 20minutes, social networks have massively taken over the Breton affair to relaunch the debate around this form of ritual slaughter. This a priori innocuous decision concerning only two slaughterhouses, brought back to the table a debate often turned around the religious fact. Some Internet users have not hesitated to tax this choice as “hypocritical”, considering that the slaughter was in any case already an attack on animal welfare. A position to which many users have joined, spreading diatribes against this “political instrumentalization aimed at attacking religious communities”. Attacks largely offset by reactions welcoming the end of this practice considered “barbaric” for animals.
Thanks! Progress. Animals are not products. The abolition of this barbaric method will not prevent anyone from believing what they want to believe.
— Pauli Schute #FightFor1Point5 (@Pauli_____) July 28, 2022
Ritual slaughter: what are we talking about?
Since 1964, French regulations require terrestrial animals to be rendered unconscious and insensitive to pain at the time of bleeding. A practice which is however not exclusive since an exception has been granted for religious practices, with its most well-known components: kosher meat (for the Jewish religion), and halal (for the Muslim religion).
The rural and maritime fishing code (article R. 214-70) effectively provides for a derogation from this obligation when stunning is not compatible with the ritual prescriptions pertaining to the free exercise of worship. “Slaughter without stunning must therefore necessarily be carried out in an approved slaughterhouse and holder of a derogation from the stunning obligation granted by the prefect of the department of the place of establishment of the establishment” specifies the Ministry of agriculture.
The OABA association had decided to seize the Council of State two years ago to demand firmer regulations on the traceability of kosher and halal meat. The institution finally rendered its decision on July 1, deeming that “these stipulations do not require the State to make traceability measures compulsory, in particular by labeling, with a view to guaranteeing certain end consumers that they do not do not consume meat or meat products from slaughter practiced without stunning…”. A way of “discarding” for the association which has announced that it wants to bring the case before the European Court of Human Rights.
No reliable figures currently exist on the consumption of this type of meat product. Questioned in 2021, the government considered at the time that it did not have consolidated statistics concerning the production of meat from animals slaughtered without stunning.
A practice that divides European countries
If France has decided to maintain this exception for religious reasons, many European countries have since returned to this derogatory clause. New scientific and philosophical advances around animal awareness and feelings, supported by animal associations, have prompted some states to decide to make stunning compulsory. In Europe, ritual slaughter is now prohibited in Norway, Slovenia, Austria, Switzerland, Iceland, Denmark and recently in Belgium.
Within the European Union, the killing of animals in slaughterhouses is governed by regulations intended to limit their suffering. The texts recommend the pre-mortem stunning of the animals – that is to say that they are rendered unconscious before their death -. But here again, a freedom is granted to States by virtue of respect for freedom of religion. “For animals subject to special slaughter methods prescribed by religious rites, the prescriptions referred to in paragraph 1 do not apply provided that the slaughter takes place in a slaughterhouse” (article 4.4 of the Council of the European Union).
In France, a controversial subject
According to an IFOP poll carried out in May 2022, nearly 90% of French people would be in favor of the stunning of slaughter animals being compulsory in all circumstances before their slaughter. And this, in opposition to the derogation granted for religious practices. However, the subject retains a divisive nature within the French political world. Many defenders of the animal cause refuse to get involved in this issue, fearing the instrumentalization that could be exercised against the Muslim community, in particular by far-right parties.
A fervent defender of compulsory stunning (if odorless and rapid), the L214 association already estimated in a newsletter that the debate was poorly posed to respond to the problem. “Opposing ‘religious slaughter’ and ‘stunning’ on principle, ignoring that stunning is accepted in certain predominantly Muslim countries (such as Indonesia or Jordan), and that prominent figures in the Jewish and Muslim communities are in favor of it, does not favor not the dialogue and the evolution towards slaughter rules which would make stunning systematic”.
If the decision of the two slaughterhouses makes as much talk, it will be necessary to wait a good while before a serene and peaceful debate is held around this social problem.
letelegramme Fr Trans