Flanders, northern Belgium, has banned halal and kosher slaughter methods unless the animal is stunned before it is killed, despite the law being slammed by both Muslims and Jews in the country.
Flanders is the first to implement the ban, with Wallonia, southern Belgium, to follow in September.
The slaughter methods of both halal and kosher require the animal’s throat to be slit and its blood to be drained. Religious laws dictate that animals that are slaughtered via halal and kosher methods must be alive and in perfect health when their necks are cut. The new law clashes with this, requiring the animal to be stunned first.
Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt, of the Conference of European Rabbis, said: “We are in the midst of an attack on the freedom of religion.”
Several Jewish religious organisations have filed lawsuits in a bid to stop the legislation, saying that the new law violates religious freedom.
Muslims and Jews…unite! https://t.co/kQMBUbAP8O
— Mehdi Hasan (@mehdirhasan) January 7, 2019
Saatci Bayram, a Muslim leader in Belgium, said that the government “asked for our advice on the ban” but that the feedback was not taken onboard. He also said, “our way of ritual slaughtering is painless.”
Joos Roets, a lawyer representing Islamic institutions, told the Times that religious discrimination motivated the ban and not animal rights.
Rabbi Menachem Margolin of the Europe Jewish Association told i24NEWS:
“This puts a shadow on our community and Jewish laws, as it is essentially saying that we cannot be trusted with the welfare of animals – that we need government supervision. This is a terrible precedent to set on an international level.”
Animal rights groups have welcomed the law. Ann De Greef of Global Action in the Interest of Animals said: “they want to keep living in the Middle Ages and continue to slaughter without stunning – as the technique didn’t yet exist back then… well, I’m sorry, in Belgium the law is above religion and that will stay like that”.
If your policy proposal criminalizes historic Jewish and Muslim religious practice, and is only a viable political proposal with the support of far-right racists, perhaps you should consider the possibility that you are on the wrong side. https://t.co/FmPoUEaRD2
— (((Yair Rosenberg))) (@Yair_Rosenberg) January 6, 2019
Countries that already forbid animals to be slaughtered without being stunned include Sweden, Denmark, Switzerland and New Zealand. While some European laws require animals to be in perfect health when they are slaughtered, most European countries offer exemptions that allow the production of halal and kosher meat.
There are 30,000 Jews and half a million Muslims living in Belgium.