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The Australian National University

Iddo Porat: Ritual Animal Slaughter, Circumcision and the Right not to be Singled Out

Date and time

Mon, 04/09/2017 - 12:30 - 14:00


Coombs Seminar Room A

Advocates of banning ritual male circumcision argue that circumcision amounts to an irreversible mutilation, causes medical harm (such as reduction of sexual pleasure) and pain, and forecloses future choices of the child without his consent. Opponents argue that such harms are exaggerated, and point to the centrality of the religious practice to practitioners and their community. A similar debate as to the relative harms to animals and to religious practitioners takes place with regards to ritual animal slaughter.  Such debates are very hard to resolve, inter alia, since they involve different conceptualization of the problem (mutilation vs. removal of excess skin).  I suggest another route. I suggest that members of a minority (in terms of power relations) have a right not to be subjected to more stringent moral criteria than the majority is willing to subject itself to. There is, in other words, a right given to the minority that the majority start with its own moral rectitude before it takes care of the minority’s. Thus, as long as hunting, manual slaughter in small farms, and cruel methods of animal transportation - the banning of which would affect the majority - are allowed, ritual animal slaughter by minorities may not be banned.  And, as long as life choices are restricted by parents of the majority in numerous irrevocable ways (moving to Australia) and non-medical painful modification are allowed (orthodontic surgery, height correction) circumcision may not be banned. I will try and defend this moral principle and discuss some ramifications – e.g., that countries such as Egypt and Israel may morally ban circumcision and ritual animal slaughter.

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