Three years ago the Danish government approved a law aimed at “defending animal rights” by enforcing that all animals must be stunned before slaughter. At first, many refused to recognize that this law would act as an effective ban on Kosher and Halal slaughter, as the practice of stunning animals before slaughter is against Jewish and Islamic law, but it was soon recognized that this was the intention of the Danish government. “Animal rights come before religion” proclaimed one Danish minister, who defended the decision to ban the slaughter on the grounds of its inhumane and barbaric principles.[1] Unfortunately, this was not the world waking up to the idea that animal slaughter had real consequences for human society both socially and politically, but rather was born out of a growing hostility to the perceived “non-Danishness” of these groups, primarily of Muslims.

This is a recurring theme all throughout the liberal and right wing opposition to the specific cultural practices of animal slaughter throughout the world, particularly when they are not western or perceived as such. However, relating back specifically to the Danish question, signalling the background of “animal rights” as a platform to pass such a transparently xenophobic law is ridiculous when one considers the Danish record on broader questions of animal rights. For instance, it was more than a year after the passage of the law regarding Kosher and Halal slaughter in the country that they finally moved to ban bestiality, which put a legal end to the disturbing market for “animal sex tourism” in the country.[2] Why was the virtue of “animal rights” taken for granted as something very important to the Danish state, while legal protections existed for the thriving market market of animal sex abuse in the country?

Returning to the law which effectively banned Kosher and Halal slaughter, the wording of the law specifically banned all slaughter practices which do not first stun the animals in question. This is a difficult law to interpret, especially when determining whether or not a certain practice is slaughter rather than fishing or hunting, which have their own set of regulations. Untouched by this law, however, the practice of butchering whales on the beaches of Faroe Island has continued just as brutally as it always has. Common scenes include men with white and brightly colored shirts stained in blood while they stand over the nearly beheaded corpses of a few dozen pilot whales. These animals are certainly not “stunned” before their slaughter, and yet through some strange technicality of the law (and no doubt a respect for “truly Danish” traditions) the practice has not only gone on unimpeded, but with the gleeful cooperation of local authorities.[3] If, in the words of Danish authorities, “animal rights come before religion,” then when do animal rights come before tradition? Or, is it perhaps the religion they are concerned with rather than animal rights?

Satellite view of Faroe Island Slaughter

This would not be outside the rationale of the Danish state, as they have since passed similar racist legal measures, mostly aimed at dissuading refugees looking to settle in Denmark. One such measure, passed in early 2016, allowed authorities to seize valuables from potential asylum seekers totalling more than 1500 dollars, including jewelry and personal possessions. The intention of the law, officially, is to recuperate revenue lost through spending on refugee programs by the state. However, it is clear that such measures are entirely intended as a deterrent, to intimidate potential asylum seekers and send a clear message of hostility from the Danish people.[4] The commitment to parasitism on display by the european countries engaging in such practices is, in miniature, a representation of their overall relationship to the Third World. The Danish state, as well as all other supporting entities, have made clear that their position is not on the side of “animal rights” but firmly against the continued existence of religious and ethnic “others” in their so-called multicultural society.

However, if we take this logic further as actual fighters for animal liberation, then we are faced with a perplexing question: how do we approach the question of Kosher and Halal slaughter from a revolutionary standpoint? This is a question with many facets, but we must say—in contrast to the imperialists in Denmark—that the true structural enemy of revolutionary environmentalists is the practice of industrial slaughter and capitalist agriculture itself. Our emphasis must be on combatting the structures which are responsible for choking the planet to death, rather than attempting to ally with the most backward elements of society to achieve victories against the most structurally irrelevant practices. It is industrial slaughter in the capitalist system, not the distinct practices of Kosher and Halal slaughter, which is responsible for the billions of animal deaths every year. The proponents of this ban on Kosher and Halal slaughter are, by and large, still proponents of the continuation of damaging agricultural practices worldwide for the sake of imperial profit. Tying the struggle for animal liberation to fascists and imperialists only advances the interests of capital.

Rather, if the struggle for animal liberation is to go anywhere, we must align principally with those forces aimed at dismantling imperialism and uprooting bourgeois interests. Instead of celebrating the passage of a law which superficially references “animal rights” as a way of solidifying imperial interests, we should be struggling on the side of anti-imperialism and communism. In order to truly make the leap necessary toward genuine animal liberation and ecological sustainability, the structural roots of capitalist agriculture and industrial slaughter must be our chief enemy.


Notes:

  1. “Denmark bans kosher and halal slaughter as minister says ‘animal rights come before religion’” (The Independent)
  2. “Denmark bans bestiality in a bid to end perverts visiting the country to have sex with animals” (Daily Mail)
  3. “Faroe Islanders slaughter whales by hand in annual hunt (GRAPHIC PHOTOS, VIDEO)” (Russia Today)
  4. “Denmark to force refugees to give up valuables under proposed asylum law” (The Guardian)

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