Saturday, 6 Jun 2020 - 14 of Sivan, 5780

European Court of Justice to hear next month appeal against ban of ritual slaughter by Belgium’s Flemish and Walloon regions

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

The European Court of Justice,  the supreme court of the European Union in matters of EU law, will open next month a hearing into the legality of measures adopted by Belgium’s regions, Flanders and Wallonia, effectively banning the Jewish method of slaughter of animals for meat consumption, known as shechita.

The court will hear parties to the appeal on this legality on April 21 in Luxembourg, CCOJB, the umbrella group of Belgian Jewish organisations, announced.

The ban voted by the Flemish and Walloon parliaments, has already been challenged before the Belgium Constitutional Court, which referred the decision to the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg.

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

Shechitah, the religious method of slaughtering animals for producing kosher meat, requires they be conscious when their throats are slit by an extremely honed special knife which kills in seconds — a practice that critics say is cruel but which advocates insist is more humane than mechanised methods used in non-kosher abattoirs.

CCOJB said it would present its position during the hearings. The fact that the court will concentrate its attention on issues regarding the competence of national governments to supercede EU legislation, freedom of religion, the neutrality of the state and fundamental rights, ‘’is encouraging,’’ the Jewish group said.

Local and European Jewish groups have condemned the ban on ritual slaughter which they see as a severe limitation on religious freedom in the heart of the European Union. Some described the move as ‘’antisemitic’’ and a reminder of a darker period in European history. In 1933, one of the first laws the Nazis enacted was a ban on kosher animal slaughter.

Rabbi Menachem Margolin, who head the European Jewish Association (EJA), a group representing Jewish communitiers across Europe, has accused lawmakers of targeting Jews and said the decisions ”have a strong stench of populism.” He described the ban as a  ‘’needless attack on the Jewish people and our way of life.”

Around 38,000 Jews live in Belgium, mainly in Antwerp, in the Flemish region, and in Brussels, the country’s capital and region. Antwerp is home of one of the largest Jewish ultra-Orthodox populations in Europe.

Ritual slaughter has already been banned in some EU countries, such as Sweden and Denmark, and other nations on the European continent, such as Switzerland and Norway.

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