Historical Social Research

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Federico Zuolo: Equality among Animals and Religious Slaughter [Abstract]

Current laws on the treatment of animals in all liberal countries demand that animals be stunned before being slaughtered in order to prevent their suffering. This is derived from a widely-shared concern for animal welfare. However, in many Western countries, exemptions from this legal requirement have been granted to Jewish and Muslim communities so that they can continue to perform ritual slaughter. Hence, there seems to be a clash between the right to religious freedom and the duty to minimize animal suffering during slaughter. In this paper, I want to propose a solution to this seemingly irreconcilable clash. To understand whether these two principles are really incompatible, we need to establish exactly what they demand of us. I argue that there is no convincing reason to take the suffering involved in the killing of animals more seriously than the suffering experienced by animals during their lives (on farms). If so, we might demand that ritually slaughtered animals be “compensated” for their experiencing a more painful death by raising these animals in better conditions than others.

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