Working Paper 191
Accommodating Religious Slaughter in the UK and Germany: competing interests in carving out legal exemptions
Department 'Law & Anthropology'
Year of publication
Number of pages
Working Paper 191
This paper discusses the challenges of accommodating the religious slaughter of animals for consumption. Religious slaughter continues to be a controversial practice that is debated regularly in several European states. Religious slaughter, also known as ritual slaughter, is predominantly practised by the Jewish and Muslim communities in Europe. Most recently, the 2018 European Union’s Court of Justice ruling on religious slaughter highlights the need for European states to adopt appropriate regulatory frameworks. This working paper discusses the challenges of accommodating religious slaughter by assessing select issues in the UK and Germany. The first section introduces the issues raised by religious slaughter and contextualises these within the broader political context of the UK and Germany. The second section outlines how religious freedom is protected in the UK and Germany by providing a brief overview of the respective constitutional contexts. The third section analyses the multi-faceted issues raised by religious slaughter in the UK and Germany by assessing three key arguments: (a) the argument of discrimination and (b) the argument of choice, before arguing for (c) the need for balancing of interests. The final section offers some tentative solutions to the problems raised by religious slaughter. The paper concludes by arguing that religious slaughter is worthy of legal protection as it is a core aspect of dietary choice for some religious minorities. Thus, religious slaughter should be protected as an aspect of the fundamental right to religious freedom. However, the paper submits that both non-religious and religious groups should take seriously the concerns of animal and environmental welfare. Perhaps the mutual concern for animal welfare can encourage dialogue between different stakeholders, and thereby bring about better negotiation of competing interests. An approach to religious slaughter that goes beyond the use of formal law might be more productive than revisiting well-trodden arguments that often set different groups against one another.