Far-right Austrian leader calls for ban on ritual slaughter

Austrian Vice Chancellor and leader of the far-right Freedom Party Hans Christian Strache has called for a ban on for meat in the country, something which would include Jewish slaughter.

Writing on his Facebook page, Strache said “Slaughter is in many cases contrary to animal rights. Slaughter should generally be prohibited without prior stunning. As in other EU countries, too. And animals are not a thing either, but protected creatures that cannot be tortured!”

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Jewish ritual slaughter cannot be performed with prior stunning according to Jewish law, while some forms of stunning are also prohibited by Islamic law for consumption by Muslims.

Just last week, Gottfried Waldhäusl of the Freedom Party, a cabinet minister in the state government of Lower Austria in charge of animal welfare, advanced a draft decree to condition sales of kosher meat only to Jews registered with the state.

Animal slaughter without stunning is forbidden in Austria, although exemptions on religious grounds can be obtained, which is how kosher slaughter can be practiced in the country.

Austria Chancellor Sebastian Kurz quickly rejected any attempt to limit kosher slaughter, however, emphasizing after Waldhäusl’s draft law came to light his “strong support of Jewish life and its traditions in Austria” and that he was “clearly committed to our Judeo-Christian roots and will continue to defend them against any form of attack.”

Said Kurz: “As head of the Austrian Federal Government, I can assure our Jewish fellow citizens that their freedoms and fundamental rights will be upheld and in no way limited.”

A spokesman for the Austrian government, Peter Launsky, said at the time, “The Austrian Federal Government rejects any form of personal registration in connection with the purchase of kosher meat, such idea is out of question and will certainly not take place in Austria.”

Neither Kurz nor Launsky have yet commented on Strache’s comments to ban ritual slaughter.