Grinding through a bill about livestock and meat inspection, legislators have spent a lot of time on one, short section: which faiths are permitted to perform animal slaughter in accordance with religious beliefs.
The proposed legislation originated from a 2016 study committee examining livestock and meat regulations. Slaughter according to Jewish religious ritual was already allowed, and the study committee decided that slaughter required by Islamic religious ritual should be permitted, too.
Both methods require an animal to be alive, not shocked, shot or otherwise harmed prior to slaughter, to be performed by someone of the Jewish or Muslim faith, and to be done with a single, swift slice to the throat.
Not everyone in the House Committee on Environment and Agriculture agrees with the bill’s more inclusive terminology. Meeting minutes show that on Feb. 14, Republican Rep. Anne Copp of Danbury disagreed with adding the words “or the Islamic faith” to House Bill 612.
Copp said the “ritual of the Jewish faith” could stay in the law because it was the original language, but adding something to it could have unintended consequences.
Republican Rep. Matthew Scruton of Rochester disagreed, saying he was “not in favor of picking (one) faith over an other,” meeting minutes show. He said he wanted to protect religious rights.
Copp suggested people from those religious groups share more information at a subcommittee session, which took place on Feb. 21.
The chairman, Rep. John O’Connor, said it was at that session the committee came up with a more general phrase for the bill that would, in the end, be more inclusive. It mirrors the federal rule, which allows slaughter prescribed by any religious faith within certain parameters.
“There are many other religious organizations that have a different method of slaughter,” including Native Americans, he said Tuesday. “That would cover it.”
In prior years, New Hampshire’s regulations – created in 1985 – covered Halal food. This was because most of it was labeled under Kosher certification, O’Connor said. But, he added, Halal certification has become more prominent in recent years.
The state was trying to update its regulations accordingly. O’Connor said that legislators have not heard any testimony from Muslim citizens on the issue. Meeting minutes show a rabbi has expressed to the committee that the phrasing should be generic for all religions.
As presented in an executive session Tuesday, the amended section reads:
“The method of slaughtering in accordance with the ritual requirements of any religious faith that prescribes a method of slaughter whereby the animal suffers loss of consciousness by anemia of the brain caused by the simultaneous and instantaneous severance of the carotid arteries with a sharp instrument, provided that the method used in bringing the animal into position for slaughter causes no injury or pain which can be avoided without interfering with the requirements of ritualistic slaughter or without imposing unreasonable economic hardship.”
All but Copp approved the amendment – she said she still has concerns about the phrasing, specifically the word “ritual.”
“That could be open to interpretation and not in the spirit of the amendment,” she said.
Democratic Rep. Peter Bixby of Dover, who wrote the amendment, disagreed – “ritual” slaughter could only be so many things.
“Any practice that would violate other elements of humane treatment of animals would not qualify,” he said.
(Elodie Reed can be reached at 369-3306, firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @elodie_reed.)