A motion adopted by Switzerland’s parliament on 7 June 2017 proposes halting the import the meat of mistreated animals. The work of Matthias Aebischer, a socialist member from the canton of Bern, was originally focused on foie gras, frogs legs and fur, but there are now suggestions his motion might include animals slaughtered according to certain islamic and jewish rituals.
According to the newspaper Tages-Anzeiger, Katharina Büttiker, the president of the Swiss animal alliance, an organisation that worked with Aebischer on the motion, thinks certain halal and kosher products should be banned where animals have had their throats cut before being stunned.
Ritual killing is done by cutting the animal’s throat while it is alive and then leaving it to bleed. Text banning this practice is included in Switzerland’s animal protection laws, however imports are possible to ensure sufficient meat of this type is supplied to jewish and muslim communities.
“It is unacceptable that bans implemented here be bypassed by imports” said Matthias Aebischer, while pointing out that the current import exception could theoretically remain if his motion becomes law.
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According to the Federal Office of Agriculture, 513 tonnes of meat killed according to jewish and muslim ritual was imported into Switzerland in 2016. In addition, Swiss butchers are allowed to produce this meat provided they stun the animals before cutting their throats.
This issue is a difficult one. Andreas Rüttimann, a lawyer specialised in defending animal rights, says that such measures are against world trade agreements but essential for protecting the public morality of a state.
Herbert Winter, President of the Swiss Federation of Jewish Communities, says that an import ban could massively limit jewish religious liberties. Stunning animals before slaughter does not fit with jewish tradition.
The issue is less problematic for muslims. Farhad Afshar, president of an organisation that brings muslims together across Switzerland, says that stunning animals before slaughter has been confirmed to be acceptable by several muslim scholars. He thinks the changes wouldn’t be a problem for the vast majority of Swiss muslims and might even be welcomed.
The Council of States, Switzerland’s upper house, will now examine Matthias Aebischer’s motion in detail.