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Ritual slaughter

Origin of the ban

The question of ritual slaughter in Switzerland was addressed by the law in the late 19th century. In 1892, more precisely, the Swiss Society for the Protection of Animals launched a popular initiative (Switzerland being a direct democracy). It was accepted on 20 August 1893 and came into effect in 1894. Following this, Article 25bis was added to the Constitution: “It is expressly forbidden to bleed animals for slaughter without having first stunned them; this provision applies to any method of slaughter and to any species of livestock. (see website of the Swiss Federation of Jewish Communities).

This ban was part of a more general context of growing anti-Semitism: the demographic growth of the Jewish community (then mainly rural before 1866 and which became urban in the second half of the twentieth century) as well as their social success had given rise to anti-Semitism. The adoption of the law prohibiting ritual slaughter was the most visible symptom of this. All kosher and halal meat has since been imported into Switzerland from abroad (see the article “Jews in Switzerland: from exclusion to integration”).

This ban was thus initially developed with regard to Jewish ritual slaughter (kosher), but also applies to Islamic ritual slaughter (halal). As the Muslim presence emerged after the Second World War, the issue of halal meat and Islamic ritual slaughter did not enter public debate until recently. Just like the issue of kosher meat, current public debate and initiatives are unfolding in a context marked by Islamophobia.

Legislative changes since 1978

Since 1893, the ban on the production of kosher or halal meat has been the subject of much debate, some of which have given rise to legislative changes.

Since the 1950s, discussion about the exceptional religious articles of the Swiss Constitution has broached the possibility of lifting the ban on slaughter. It was ultimately removed from the Constitution in 1978, but fully incorporated into the federal law on the protection of animals (LPA, art. 21).

In 2017 (see the article "Declaration of Halal Meat" Art. 3369 of June 2017), the National Council accepted by a large majority (117 votes to 40) a motion requiring that halal meat be declared as such to customers, whether in supermarkets or restaurants. Current legislation requires a processing declaration only at the first stage of sale (wholesale trade), in contrast to retail sale and restaurants. However, the Commission of the Council of State opposed this parliamentary initiative by 8 votes to 3. If the plenum (all parliamentarians of the chamber concerned) does so, the item will be discarded (see Le Temps).

That same year, the motion of Matthias Aebischer, Member of Parliament of the Social Democratic Party, which proposed a ban on the import of meat from mistreated animals was accepted by 97 votes to 77. This bill, as formulated, includes kosher and halal meat produced without prior stunning of the animals. This bill will then be voted on by the Council of States; however, no date has yet been set.

See also the article "Ritual slaughter" in the "Law and religion" section.

D 14 February 2019    AAnaïd Lindemann

CNRS Unistra Dres Gsrl

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