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  • 2018 : Why religious slaughter is (still) not an issue in Croatia ?

Croatia allows slaughter for religious purposes and there are no public debates to question that. According to the Law on Animal Protection from 2017, derogation of stunning in case of religious slaughter taking place in slaughterhouses is allowed in accordance with the Council Regulation (EC) No 1099/2009 of 24 September 2009 on the protection of animals at the time of killing (Official Journal of the European Union, L 303, 18.11.2009). The EU regulation became a part of the Law on Animal Protection in 2013 (Narodne novine 37/2013, in Croatian), just a few months before Croatia became an EU member. However, the derogation of stunning was allowed also before, as demonstrated by the Law on Animal Protection from 2006 (Narodne novine 135/2006, in Croatian). The interesting fact is that in the process of drafting and discussing the law in 2017, religious slaughter did not appear as an issue which would attract public interest. More interestingly, “Animal Friends Croatia” (Prijatelji životinja, in Croatian and English), the most visible and influential non-governmental organization devoted to animal protection, expressed the opinion that slaughter without stunning should be banned in Croatia, naming it a brutal and unhuman praxis. This was already formulated as an amendment on the Law from 2006, and in previous versions of draft laws in 2015 and 2016. However, not only was this ignored by the Ministry of Agriculture (in charge of drafting the law), but hardly attracted any public interest. In addition, this NGO had an influence on law drafting, and seemed satisfied with other aspects of the 2017 law as it presents an important step forward in animal protection in Croatia. (See Law on Animal Protection, Narodne novine 102/2017, 32/2019, in Croatian). Thus, a ban of religious slaughter is not (yet) on the public agenda and, it would be hypothesised, no change in that respect is expected in years to come.

There are two main reasons why religious slaughter does not attract public interest in Croatia.

The first one is connected with the role of religion in society and Church-state relations. Croatia is among the European countries with a relatively high level of religiosity. According to the new 2017/2018 European Values Survey data, 82% of respondents declared belonging to a denomination. More importantly, Croatia gives a wide range of rights to a number of religious communities. While the position of the dominant Catholic Church is regulated by four agreements with the Holy See signed in 1996 and 1998, the position of other religious communities is regulated by the Law on Legal Status of Religious Communities (2002) and agreements between the Government and respective religious communities which grant them specific rights, such as co-funding from the state budget, the right to organize confessional instruction in public schools, recognition of religious marriage by state authorities, police and army chaplaincies, religious assistance in prisons and hospitals, etc. Currently, 19 religious communities out of 42 registered have agreements with the Government, including the Islamic Community, and two Jewish communities which exist in Croatia. In addition, Croatia celebrated in 2016 the hundredth anniversary of the official recognition of Islam. For different social and historical reasons, the social position of the Islamic Community in Croatia is very favourable, mostly because Muslims in Croatia mainly originate from neighbouring Bosnia and Herzegovina, with which Croatia shares a history of living in common states, and share a language and culture very similar to that of Croatians / Catholics. As long as the Islamic and Jewish communities recognize the ritual slaughter as an important part of their religion and culture, there is not much chance this would be forbidden in Croatia, at least not in a foreseeable future. In addition, there are market benefits as many companies produce food (mainly for export) which are certified as halal by the Islamic Community or kosher by one Jewish Community in Croatia.

The second reason might be connected with a short history of public debates and actions on animal rights. The already mentioned and publicly most visible and influential NGO “Animal Friends Croatia” was established only in 2001. Among the many campaigns they performed, those for the ban of fur farming and wild animals in circus, campaigning about the need to have shelters for abandoned dogs and to ban killing of dogs in shelters, and in general promotion of veganism, attracted public interest and in fact brought some changes. However, public concerns are mainly about pets, not about animal in general. Although there is no research data to confirm this, traditional views on animals seem very widespread. They include a tradition of pig slaughter (kolinje in Croatian) in private households. Hence, the idea to ban slaughter without stunning does not attract interest among general population.

References :
 Zrinščak, S. (2014) "Re-Thinking Religious Diversity : Diversities and Governance of Diversity in “Post-Societies”". In : G. Giordan, E. Pace (eds.) Religious Pluralism. Framing Religious Diversity in the Contemporary World. Springer, pp. 115-131.
 Zrinščak, S., Marinović-Jerolimov, D., Marinović, A. Ančić, B. (2014) "Church and State in Croatia : Legal Framework, Religious Instruction, and Social Expectations". In : S. Ramet (ed.) Religion and Politics in Post-Socialist Central and Southeastern Europe. Challenges since 1989. Palgrave, pp. 131-154.

D 3 juin 2019    ASiniša Zrinščak

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