A plan to force Jews to obtain permits in order to buy kosher meat has been proposed by a local government department in Austria.
The draft decree in Lower Austria, one of nine states that makes up the central European country, would effectively ban kosher sales other than to Jews who could prove they regularly ate the ritually slaughtered meat.
Mr Waldhäusl claimed the proposal was “from the point of view of animal welfare” and that religious rites slaughter should “generally be rejected”. Kosher meat requires all animals to be conscious at the point of slaughter.
Mr Waldhäusl, who is also a farmer, added Lower Austria was “not there to provide meat to the Viennese”; the Austrian state where most of the country’s 8,000 Jews live.
Shimon Cohen, campaign director of kosher meat community organisation Shechita UK, told The Independent: “The idea that Jews would require permits to purchase kosher meat is absurd and not something that should be seriously considered in any liberal democracy.
“We have been told that this plan is unlikely to progress and we hope that it is given the short shrift it deserves.”
But Klaus Schneeberger, Lower Austria’s regional leader and member of the ruling People’s Party, said there would be no ban on kosher meat.
“Of course nobody will have to register to buy kosher meat,” he told broadcaster ORF. “There will be no such thing.”
Many animal rights activists say kosher methods of slaughter, as well as halal, is cruel and causes the animal being slaughtered to be put through unnecessary pain. Advocates say the process is humane and causes a quick death.
The Freedom Party is currently serving as the junior partner in a coalition government with the People’s Party, a conservative party led by Austrian chancellor Sebastian Kurz. It came third in elections held last year, with 26 per cent of the vote.
Despite claims that it has left its Nazi links behind, the party has repeatedly caused controversy in recent years.
Earlier this year, interior minister Herbert Kickl said he wanted to “concentrate” asylum seekers into special centres, causing outrage with his use of Nazi-linked terminology. Mr Kickl is still in his post and said he did not mean to promote a “semantic discussion”.