For meat to be considered kosher under Jewish law or halal under Islamic law, the animal must be conscious when killed.

Pernille Johnsen told VoR it's well documented that animals suffer less when stunned, "so for animal welfare reasons we think it's good that this option is no longer possible in Denmark. It has to be done as humanely as possible."

It can take several minutes for cattle to become unconscious, so stunning is essential to prevent that, she says.

Jewish leaders say the new law is a clear interference in religious freedom.

"I don't think that's right. For years, slaughter without stunning has not taken place. For example, all our broilers are slaughtered in halal and they're stunned before and that has been accepted by the Islamic society, so that will continue and I don't think it'll make any difference."

So when Jewish leaders say it's anti-Semitic, you're saying it's not?

"Islamic societies in Denmark for years have accepted that animals were stunned before slaughtering and still it's been perceived as halal meat, so it shouldn't make a difference for Jewish people either."

But a senior Jewish leader has said that this is an example of European anti-Semitism.

"The most important aspect is animal welfare. In Denmark, animals have to be stunned before slaughtering and this has been the case for 10 years, so I don't know how they've got their meat until now."

European regulations require stunning although there are some exemptions on religious grounds.

"I'd say it's a loophole in the law that's for certain reasons slaughtering could be carried out without stunning. But the general principle in European law is that animals should be slaughtered as humanely as possible and of course that include pre-stunning before slaughter, so we're not in opposition to European law at all."

(VoR)