JEDDAH – More than 25,000 Muslims living in Denmark will have to stop eating Danish meat after Denmark on Monday banned the religious slaughter of animals  in a controversial decision that effectively ends the sale of halal and kosher meats.  Many Gulf countries, including Saudi Arabia, import frozen beef and poultry from Denmark. Now Muslims, not only in Denmark, but wherever Danish meat is exported are angry at such a reckless decision. European regulations require animals to be stunned before slaughter except on religious grounds. Denmark has removed this exemption, drawing strong protests from Jewish and Islamic groups . Danish Halal, a group that oversees the authenticity of halal meat in the country and which launched a petition against the ban, was quoted by Qatari broadcaster Al-Jazeera as saying the decision was “a clear interference in religious freedom limiting the rights of Muslims and Jews to practice their religion in Denmark”. Danish Halal, which represents 53 Muslim organizations including the Islamic Community in Denmark, expects to garner some 20,000 signatures against the introduction of the ban. Danish Minister for Agriculture and Food Dan Jørgensen defended the decision, telling Denmark’s TV2 that “animal rights come before religion”. European Commissioner for Health Tonio Borg condemned the ban, saying that it “contradicts European law.” Danish Justice Minister Karen Hækkerup acknowledged that Muslims and Jews were upset by the new measures, but vowed that the ministry would not change its policy. The ban has divided opinions in Denmark, which recently made headlines for animal welfare policy after Copenhagen Zoo slaughtered the “surplus” young male giraffe Marius. On Twitter, David Krikler (@davekriks ) wrote: “In Denmark butchering a healthy giraffe in front of kids is cool but a kosher/halal chicken is illegal.” Byakuya Ali-Hassan (@SirOthello ) said it was “disgusting” that “the same country that slaughtered a giraffe in public to be fed to lions… is banning halal meat because of the procedures”. Denmark is not the first country to prohibit religious slaughter. Other countries including Norway, Poland, Sweden and Switzerland have already introduced this law.