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Austrian official proposes ritual animal slaughter controls

An Austrian state cabinet minister from a far-right party has called for stricter controls, including registration, for ritual slaughtering methods used by Jews and Muslims, citing animal rights.

Austrian official proposes ritual animal slaughter controls
File photo shows a man checking carcasses of bovine animals after a Kosher ritual slaughter, in Haguenau, eastern France. Photo: AFP

A coalition of the centre-right People's Party (ÖVP) and the far-right Freedom Party (FPÖ) has governed Austria since December after winning votes on an anti-immigration platform.

FPÖ member Gottfried Waldhäusl was quoted in an interview in Austrian newspaper Die Presse Thursday as saying registration was necessary to reduce the slaughtering used for meat consumed by Jews and Muslims.

The law provides that having such meat is only for those who show they belong to a religious community and need it, the cabinet minister in the state of Lower Austria told the paper.

Waldhäusl has said he wants to reduce the practice of slaughtering animals without first stunning them, citing animal rights.

Austria's Jewish community organisation, the IKG, said citing animal protection to crack down on kosher slaughtering was a “wrong pretext”. 

“To demonise the practice is a way to demonise minorities,” an IKG official, who declined to be named, told AFP.

Muslim community organisation IGGÖ has also called the proposal affecting halal meat “unacceptable”.

The FPÖ was founded by former Nazis in the 1950s but in recent years has sought to clean up its image, with its leader saying the party rejects all extremism.

But since its entry into government in December, the party has been embroiled in a string of controversies that critics say show it has not stamped out extremism.

In March, the FPÖ expelled two local councillors for sharing Hitler photos and quotes on WhatsApp, and in January an FPÖ candidate in a state election quit after it emerged that his student fraternity had published a songbook with lyrics joking about the Holocaust.

READ ALSO: Another day, another Nazi scandal for Austria's co-governing Freedom Party

FPÖ

Austrian far right says nein danke to Steve Bannon’s advances

The Austrian far right has said it is not eager to collaborate politically with Donald Trump's former adviser Steve Bannon over forming a pan-European right-wing movement.

Austrian far right says nein danke to Steve Bannon's advances
France's far-right Front National (FN) president Marine Le Pen applauds Bannon after his speech at the FN's annual congress, on March 10, 2018. Photo: AFP

The secretary-general of the far-right Freedom Party (FPÖ), Harald Vilimsky, told ORF public television late on Tuesday that his party was not keen working with Bannon.

“We want to forge alliances in Europe but we do it independently of the US, Russia or anyone else,” Vilimsky said.

“We want to grow, expand on our own and develop our programme and ideas on our own, but surely not under the leadership of someone active in the United States,” he added.

Bannon, Trump's former strategist who has said being called racist is a “badge of honour”, hopes to build a right-wing populist revolt across the continent ahead of European Parliament elections in 2019.

The FPÖ has governed as part of Austria's ruling coalition since late last year. The country is the only Western European nation to have a far-right party in power.

The party however said it would consider working with Bannon in some areas, such as a think tank or digital media.

Bannon has been increasingly visible in Europe in recent months after he was pushed out of the White House and departed the right-wing Breitbart media empire, condemned by some commentators as spreading racist and misogynist views.

He has focused on touting plans for a Brussels-based foundation called “The Movement” to change the dynamics of European politics and has met various politicians including Hungary's Prime Minister Viktor Orban and Italy's anti-immigration Interior Minister Matteo Salvini.

Salvini, who recently blocked rescue ships carrying migrants from docking at Italian ports, on Saturday said he wanted to be at the forefront of a movement to “save Europe”, a day after meeting Bannon in Rome.

Questioned on Tuesday about a possible collaboration with Bannon, Orban told a press conference in Brussels he was not “interested in things that do not affect Hungary”.