The Swiss government may soon have to decide whether to allow the Jewish and Muslim ritual slaughter of animals, currently forbidden under federal law.
The move is strongly opposed by animal rights groups, veterinarians, and farmers.
The proposal, outlined in a pilot study for reform of the Swiss animal protection law, is currently under consultation. Cantons, organisations and other interested parties, including religious groups, have until December 31 to give their opinions on the matter.
Slaughtering animals for kosher and halal meat, which involves slitting the animal's throat so that it bleeds dry without stunning it first, has been banned in Switzerland since 1893.
The government is proposing making an exception for Switzerland's Jewish and Muslim communities, who currently have to import meat, mainly from France.
However, animal rights groups and meat industry professionals argue that the proposal goes against recent improvements in the treatment of animals.
The issue of suffering
"It is inconceivable to allow a practice that makes the animal suffer, when methods exist - like electrocution - that stun the animal without compromising the Jewish ritual of bleeding," veterinarian Patrice Francfort, cantonal inspector of abattoir meats at Malley in Prilley, told the Lausanne newspaper "24 Heures".
Both Jewish and Muslim religions forbid the stunning of animals before slaughter on religious grounds. Professor Alfred Donath, president of the Federation of Swiss Jewish Communities, said that there was no proof that ritual slaughtering was more painful than any other method.
The president of the League of Muslims in Switzerland, Mohamed Karmous, told the newspaper that he would favour a relaxation in the law on ritual slaughter. He added that it could also help to put a stop to slaughter carried out on the Swiss black market, often under unhygienic conditions.
Switzerland is currently one of only four European countries, along with Sweden, Norway and Iceland, which still ban ritual slaughter.
swissinfo with agencies
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