Religious leaders in Denmark say law changes to kosher and halal slaughter practices will not greatly affect their ways of life, despite international criticism about the change.

Denmark's minister for agriculture, Dan Jorgensen, announced changes to religious slaughtering practices last week that now require animals to be stunned before they are killed.

Traditional halal and kosher practices require the animal to be conscious at the point of slaughter. 

"Animal rights come before religion," said Jorgensen on Danish television.

The change gained international attention, many on social media saying the change restricted religious freedom.

However Khalil Jaffar, an imam at the Islamic Cultural Centre in Copenhagen, told Al Jazeera on Tuesday that Danish Islamic leaders had issued a religious decree several years ago saying that animals stunned before slaughter were considered halal in Denmark

He said that the international attention had however prompted Muslims living in other countries to ask him about the change.

Finn Schwarz, the president of the Jewish Community Centre, also based in the capital, said the change would not affect Denmark's small Jewish community because it imported its kosher meat.

However, Schwarz said that the Danish government had issued its directive in a "non-democratic" way.

"This has not changed the fact that we can still supply the Jewish population with kosher meat. The issue here is both the Muslim organisation and the Jewish community agree this has been pushed through in a non-democratic process in a quick way," said Schwarz.

Jorgensen on Monday stressed that religious slaughter remained legal in the country.

“To eliminate all doubt, let me make it clear that slaughter according to Islamic precepts is still permitted in Denmark. This is not changing. It is important for the Danish government that everybody in Denmark can purchase meat slaughtered according to Islamic precepts without coming into conflict with their religious beliefs,” he said.

Source: Al Jazeera