European Union Member States Can Ban Halal Meat, Court Rules

The halal meat industry in Europe is worth between £3-5 billion a year. And according to Stratistics MRC, the Global Halal Ingredients market is accounted for $40.17 billion in 2017 and is expected to reach $77.47 billion by 2026. 

The European Union’s highest court, The Court of Justice, ruled on Thursday that EU member countries can ban the practise of ritual slaughter. The court issued the verdict on a case from 2017 when a Belgian court said animals must be stunned before being killed. 

Belgium’s Flanders regional government order took effect in 2019.  It banned the slaughter of animals without pre-stunning, on the belief the animal is not killed in the process. Islamic halal and Jewish shechita slaughter requires animals to be healthy and awake before having their throats slit.

Many animal rights organisations, however, continue to argue that ritual slaughter is inhumane. Other countries to implement the ban include Denmark, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, Slovenia, and Liechtenstein.

The EU court has said that the EU’s animal slaughter regulation “does not preclude member states from imposing an obligation to stun animals prior to killing which also applies in the case of slaughter prescribed by religious rites,” providing it does not contravene the EU’s charter of fundamental human rights. But earlier in the year an advocate general in the EU court said the ban did not comply with EU law.  

Many have argued banning halal meat is Islamophobic and banning kosher meat is anti-Semitic. 

The head of the conference of European rabbis also said the ruling will be felt by Jewish communities across Europe.

“This decision goes even further than expected and flies in the face of recent statements from the European institutions that Jewish life is to be treasured and respected,” said Chief Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt.

Christoph Strack, Duetsche Well’s religions expert states that “European societies grow progressively secular, more and more people take offense to certain religious practices. This pertains to certain rituals, religious needs and sensitivities; religion is no longer taken as seriously as it once was.” 

EU law and UK law already requires animals to be stunned before being killed, unless the meat is intended to be consumed by Muslims or Jews in approved abattoirs. There have previously been actions called to ban halal meat in the UK during October 2017. Councillors in Lancashire voted to end its use in council-run schools.

During the process of halal ritual slaughter, a dedication known as tasmiya or shahada to Allah (swt) is recited. Halal laws within Islam also forbids consuming certain body parts from animals such as the testicles and bladder. There are also arguments that the practice of stunning can actually cause more distress to the animal.

According to the Halal Authority Board, “If followed properly, both unstunned and stunned are extremely humane forms of slaughter and the evidence to suggest otherwise is completely wrong,” said its head of certification, Shaykh Tauqir Ishaq.

It has been argued that mechanical stunning can also have a high failure rate. A report from the EU Food Safety Authority stated that failure rates for penetrative captive bolt stunning maybe as high as 6.6% which is the equivalent of 2 million cows. It also reported that failure for non-penetrative captive bolt stunning and electric stunning could be as high as 31% which is the equivalent of 10 million cows. 

Islam upholds the rights of animals to kind treatment and justice. One Hadith quotes Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) as saying: “A good deed done to an animal is as meritorious as a good deed done to a human being, while an act of cruelty to an animal is as bad as an act of cruelty to a human being.”

The Court said “interference with the freedom to manifest religion” met an “objective of general interest recognised by the European Union, namely the promotion of animal welfare”.

The EU still approves the gas killing of male chicks for economic reasons. In Germany, 45 million male chicks are killed each year because they do not lay eggs and do not put on as much meat. Denmark culled 17 million minks in November 2020 in response to COVID-19 outbreaks at 200 mink farms. Demark is the world’s largest fur producer. Why are animal rights not being taken into account then?

The halal meat industry in Europe is worth between £3-5 billion a year. And according to Stratistics MRC, the Global Halal Ingredients market is accounted for $40.17 billion in 2017 and is expected to reach $77.47 billion by 2026. 

If the practise of halal meat production is banned, it will not only infringe on millions of Muslims’ dietary requirements but also inevitably result in job losses, preventing Muslims to continue prospering in the global food industry. 

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