This isn't the first time the subject of religious slaughter of food among France's religious minorities has come up. But with a presidential election looming next month it was bound to re-surface.
Last month, Marine Le Pen, candidate of the far-right National Front made ritual slaughter for Halal meat an issue … and it found traction. Now Prime Minister Francois Fillon, a member of President Sarkozy's UMP party, is echoing the call.
“Religions should think about keeping traditions that don’t have much in common with today’s state of science, technology and health problems,” Fillon told Europe 1 radio station.
Mohammad Moussaoui, leader of France's Muslim Council, told France 24, a suggestion that packaging of Halal and Kosher meat describing the food as being slaughtered without being stunned, as something that "will stigmatize Muslims and Jews as people who don’t respect the interests of animals. That will raise tensions in society.”
The French state has a long history of intruding into minority religious practice, going back to the Napoleonic era. In the name of creating a secular public space, Napoleon promulgated laws that forced Jews to give up their traditional dress, shave, and take French names.
While "laicite," maintaining secularism, is always stated as the goal, there is always a certain xenophobia and sectarian dislike behind the government's actions. And, of course, as in this case, the hope of electoral gain.