In a move lauded by animal welfare activists, one that has some Jewish and Islamic leaders crying foul, the Danish government has enacted a new ban on the ritual slaughter used in production of kosher and halal meat, respectively.

European Union guidelines for how animals are to be slaughtered require they be stunned unconscious before being killed, but until now exceptions had been granted in Denmark for religions that believe animals need to be conscious, a practice many activists say amounts to animal cruelty.

Denmark’s food and agriculture minister Dan Jørgensen, in a television interview, recognized the controversy, but argued “animal rights come before religion.”

The ban was quickly countered with a petition by Muslim organization Danish Halal, which called for a repeal of the “clear interference of religious freedom.” Rabbi Eli Ben Dahan, Israeli Deputy Minister of Religious Services, said the ban reflected Europe’s anti-Semitism.

Meanwhile, others called the ban “common sense.”

In light of the international response on both sides of the issue, however, Jørgensen responded by saying the ban will not change much. Prior to the formal ban, he said, no animals in Denmark have been slaughtered without being pre-stunned in ten years -- noting that the ban will not prohibit kosher or halal meat from being imported.

Danish imam Khalil Jaffar has also since pointed out that a decree made several years ago allowed for pre-stunned animals to still be considered halal, and that current slaughter protocol is already in compliance with the new ban.

Denmark is now the only European Union member state to not to grant exemptions for ritual slaughter. The U.S. also allows for ritual slaughter under the First Amendment.