BRUSSELS – Belgium’s Constitutional Court, the country’s higjhest adminstrative court, has ruled that it needed to suspend the legal process in order to check the legality of the bans on religious slaughter passed in 2017 by the parliaments of Flanders and Wallonia.
Following the passing of the legislation in the Flemish and Walloon parliaments, the Coordinating Committee of Jewish Organizations in Belgium (CCOJB), which consider it to be ‘’discriminatory’’, filed a lawsuit against the ban with support from The Lawfare Project, a New York-based legal think tank and litigation fund that files legal cases against anti-Jewish discrimination around the world.
In its ruling, the Constitutional Court decided that it needs to check whether the bans on religious slaughter are compatible with European law. European legislation allows for religious slaughter as an exception to the rule of prior stunning, provided that religious slaughter is operated in an approved slaughterhouse.
The CCOJB and Lawfare Project’s lawsuit argued that the ban violates the religious freedoms guaranteed in the European Union’s Charter of Fundamental Rights. The European Court of Human Rights has previously described kosher slaughter as “an essential aspect of practice of the Jewish religion.”
Halacha, the Jewish religious law, mandates that an animal be healthy and not injured before kosher ritual slaughter, or shechita, and that rendering it immobile (or pre-stunning it) is prohibited; hence, the animal cannot be used.
CCOJB and The Lawfare Project maintain that while the ban was implemented with the stated purpose of animal welfare, that argument is flawed because animal welfare has always been central to the laws of kosher practice.
Yohan Benizri, president of the CCOJB, regretted that the Constitutional Court has not already annulled the ban decrees ‘’on the basis of our fundamental principles.’’ He added however : ‘’I note that our arguments have all the same carried through. No one can say that this law was above suspicion. On the contrary, it raises a serious question of compatibility with European law. The battle will continue in Luxembourg’’ where the European Court of Human Right sis based.
Brooke Goldstein, Executive Director of The Lawfare Project, which supported the lawsuit said:“It is disappointing that the Constitutional Court hasn’t put a stop to this assault on religious freedom in Belgium. The ban on religious slaughter is a shameful and vindictive act towards minority communities. If allowed to stand it has appalling implications for Jewish communities in Belgium and beyond. We will continue to fight this bigotry and discrimination in the European courts. We will never let attacks on the rights of Jews and other minorities to practice their religion go unchallenged.”
If the ban is implemented, the Jewish community of Belgium will have to import kosher mead from the Netherlands and Hungary. Antwerp, which is the main city of Flanders, Belgium’s Flemish region, is home to a large Orthodox Jewish community
Ritual slaughter of animals without prior stunning is outlawed in Denmark, Norway, Sweden and partially in Switzerland.