Thursday, 2 Dec 2021 - 28 of Kislev, 5782

Brussels regional government starts debating a ban on ritual slaughter

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Two other regions of Belgium, Flanders and Wallonia, already ban ritual slaughter without stunning, a ban that  had been challenged by Jewish groups.

A recent decision by Belgium’s Constitutional Court upheld a ruling by the European Court of Justice that EU member states can ban slaughter, including kosher ritual slaughter, without pre-stunning.

The Brussels regional government has started a debate on a ban of ritual slaughter without stunning, a divisive issue within the coalition.

Brussels Minister for Animal Welfare, Bernard Clerfayt, has decided to put the ban on the table of the government following a recent decision by Belgium’s Constitutional Court upholding a ruling by the European Court of Justice that EU member states can ban slaughter, including kosher ritual slaughter, without pre-stunning.

Two other regions of Belgium, Flanders and Wallonia, already ban ritual slaughter without stunning, a ban that  had been challenged by Jewish groups.

The E.U. court had ruled that the laws requiring animals to be stunned enable “a fair balance to be struck between the importance attached to animal welfare and the freedom of Jewish and Muslim believers to manifest their religion.”

The case came to the European Union’s highest court in Luxembourg following a 2017 law in Belgium’s Flanders region prohibiting animal slaughter without stunning. The ban, in relation to Jewish and Muslim slaughter, has been in effect since Jan. 1, 2019.

Animal slaughter without prior stunning is already banned in several E.U. countries, such as Sweden,Denmark, Finland, Estonia and Switzerland. Others, such as the Netherlands and Poland, had also banned it before reversing their position. The other states have so far tolerated a religious exception.

For the Brussels minister, the justice system has done its job and it is therefore logical to discuss it even if it was not part of the coalition government agreement. “We can discuss the modalities and the deadlines but it seems logical to me that the same rules are applied in Brussels as in Wallonia and Flanders and that they have been validated by all the legal authorities,’’ he said;

He agrees with the ruling of the Constitutional Court that the practice of ritual slaughter with stunning does not hinder freedom of worship or at least not sufficiently in relation to animal suffering.

But the issue is dividing the Brussels coalition government with the Socialists and Greens being cautious due to the presence of an important Muslim community in Brussels. The issue will now been presented to the regional parliament for a vote in the next few weeks.

The ban of religious slaughter was one of the topics discussed this week during a meeting of Jewish leaders in Brussels organized by the European Jewish Association (EJA).

“Belgium and various European countries must review their position on this issue,” urged Joël Mergui, president of the Jewish Consistory of France.  “If we want there to be Jewish lights in Europe in 10 or 20 years, we must not only ensure our security, but also allow us to live our traditions. Respecting the Shabbat, eating kosher, family life, worshiping in a synagogue: these traditions do not threaten public order. You cannot say: ‘We want a Judaism in Europe, but forget your traditions’. We want to continue to make our contribution to the development of Europe, but we must be able to continue to worship in peace.’’

”Freedom or religion for Jews is a barometer of general freedom, if Jews can fully experience their identity, so can everyone else,” said Mergui. The Jewish community i France is the largest in Europe.

European Jewish Association Chairman Rabbi Menachem Margolin deplored that the EU Commission’s strategy to combat antisemitism, announced last week, ‘’ignored  our pleas to act against states that have been limiting our ability to keep our tradition,” in a reference to milah (circumcision) and shechita, the kosher slaughter.

“We welcome any effort that seeks to do something positive in the fight against antisemitism, but it appears that the EU Commission has chosen to focus on the easy tasks while avoiding a clash with member states that are not making an effort to fight it,” Margolin said, adding that the “main problem is the freedom of religion for Jews, which is being restricted by some member states.”

The conference of Jewish leaders adopted a 10-point plan to rid the world of antisemitism. It calls among others ‘’to encourage member states that freedom of religion is an EU pillar. A fundamental right. Underlining that safeguarding the rights of the Jewish people within the EU to practice religious customs, including kosher slaughter and circumcision is every bit as important as combatting antisemitism. Aso condemning in public any member state that violates this fundamental right.’’

Under freedom of religion, which is protected by the European Union as a human right, EU legislation allows exemption on religious grounds for non-stunned slaughter provided that they take place in authorised slaughterhouses.

The Belgian Jewish community is considering to put the Belgian ban on ritual slaughter before the European Court of Human Rights.

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