French election: Muslims and Jews fear end to ritual slaughter

French election: Muslims and Jews fear end to ritual slaughter
France's Muslim and Jewish minorities are united by fears about life under a far-right president, including losing access to halal and kosher meat.
2 min read
17 April, 2022
The French halal meat industry has boomed in recent decades, tapping into the needs of practicing Muslim across the country [PHILIPPE HUGUEN/AFP via Getty]

Observant Muslims and Jews in France fear they could lose access to locally ritually slaughtered meat if far-right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen wins the next round of the French presidential elections, held next Sunday.

Le Pen has long stated that she wants all animals to be stunned unconscious before slaughter, which is against the principles regulating kosher and halal rituals. Islam and Judaism both insist animals should be conscious when slaughtered and see stunning as an unnecessary source of suffering.

Although Le Pen frames the move as stemming from concerns about animal welfare, the intention to target members of France's religious minorities is clear. She supports other policies that show little concern for animals - like extended hunting rights, a move clearly meant to woo France's rural communities, where hunting remains a deeply anchored tradition.

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Le Pen is the historic leader of the National Rally, formally known as the National Front, which has long campaigned to restrict immigration and roll back some religious freedoms, openly targeting Muslim minorities.

Earlier this month, she also announced she would ban the wearing of the hijab in public if elected, and that fines would be imposed on women wearing the Islamic headscarf.

France's booming halal meat industry would suffer a massive blow if Le Pen succeeded in banning ritual slaughtering, but Muslim communities would still be able to buy imported halal meat. 

It would also not be the first country to ban ritual slaughtering. In the EU, Slovenia, Denmark, Sweden and parts of Belgium have cancelled religious exemptions in the meat industry, meaning kosher and halal meat must be imported. 

France does not record data about religious identity, but is estimated to host the largest Muslim and Jewish populations in Western Europe.

French Muslims are thought to make up around nine percent of the population, but they have been leaving the country in ever-greater numbers over the past years, fleeing a political climate of distrust and scapegoating against their community.

The presidential elections this year mirrors the last ones five years ago, in which Macron beat Le Pen with two thirds of votes. But this time, analysts warn the race will be much tighter amid particularly high projected abstention rates.