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Schächten: Religiously significant, legally permitted

In Lower Austria, there is currently intense discussion about restricting slaughtering. The ritual slaughter, which originated in Judaism and was later adopted by Islam, is an important part of religious practice for both religions.

Slaughtering without prior stunning is in principle forbidden in the Animal Welfare Act, but is permitted in the case of "mandatory religious commands or prohibitions of a legally recognized religious community". Basically, slaughtering refers to the ritual slaughter of an animal in Judaism, explains Richard Potz, professor at the Institute for Legal Philosophy, Religious and Cultural Law at the University of Vienna, to the APA. It was later adopted by Islam.

Death without anesthesia

Characteristic is the "severing of the carotid artery of the animal by a professionally executed quick shaft incision without prior anesthesia. The animals then bleed out ”, says the book“ Muslims in Austria ”, which Potz wrote together with the Protestant theologian Susanne Heine and the Islamic scholar Rüdiger Lohlker.

kathbild / Franz Josef Rupprecht

Religious law expert Richard Potz

It is important that the animal is completely bleeded out; only bloodless meat may be consumed. There is also a theological background to the fact that no anesthesia is performed, according to Potz: “In religion there is the idea that an animal cannot be eaten if it is not completely okay. As soon as you anesthetize it, it is no longer. ”The anesthesia causes injuries to the animals that make the meat no longer kosher.

Different points of view

There are many different points of view on the subject, explains Potz. For example, it is discussed how long animals feel pain after a real shaft cut. "There are definitely people who say that manholes are more animal-friendly than other methods," says Potz. In both religions, people are strongly attached to ritual slaughter.

According to an EU directive, pain, stress, fear or other forms of suffering in the animals must be avoided as far as possible when killing animals, but slaughter without prior stunning is permitted for religious reasons. The order can therefore be reversed and the stunning can only take place after the shaft cut, according to Potz.

Shafts permitted in Austria

In Austria, shafts are currently permitted under the Federal Animal Welfare Act, which is implemented by the federal states - but subject to certain conditions. For example, a veterinarian must be present and the animal must be anesthetized immediately after the cut. In addition, slaughtering may only take place in slaughterhouses approved for this purpose by the authorities. In principle, however, the slaughter of animals without stunning is prohibited; it is only permitted in the case of “compelling religious commands or prohibitions of a legally recognized religious community”.

A criminal law prohibition of ritual slaughter, so it says in “Muslims in Austria”, would be unconstitutional. According to the work, the Supreme Court and the Constitutional Court have also expressed the opinion in the past that “animal welfare does not have any decisive weight compared to the right to freedom of worship”.


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