Thursday, 24 Sep 2020 - 6 of Tishri, 5781

Jewish groups welcome EU court Attorney General’s opinion on kosher slaughter ban in Flanders and Wallonia which, he says, breaches EU’s freedom of religion

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In his opinion, the Advocate General underscored the “positive commitment of the EU to allow ritual slaughter in order to ensure freedom of religion”. While highlighting the importance of animal welfare and the ability of Member States to introduce stricter measures providing for such, Hogan categorically stated that in his opinion a ban would amount to a restriction on the right of freedom of religion enshrined in the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union.

“I welcome the Attorney General’s Opinion that individual Member State moves to ban kosher slaughter run contrary to EU law and are a breach of commitments to respect freedom of religion, Chairman of the European Jewish Association (EJA) in a reaction to the publication on Thursday of the opinion of the European Court of Justice Attorney General Gerard Hogan.

The opinion relates to the ban imposed by both the Flemish and Walloon regions of Belgium on the slaughter of animals according to Jewish and Muslim rites.

The European Court of Justice is the EU’s supreme court in matters of EU law.

The Court is examining the legality of the measures adopted by Flanders and Wallonia effectively banning the Jewish method of slaughter of animals for meat consumption, known as shechita.

European Court of Justice Attorney General Gerard Hogan. In his opinion he categorically stated that a ban would amount to a restriction on the right of freedom of religion enshrined in the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union.

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.

In his opinion, the Advocate General underscored the “positive commitment of the EU to allow ritual slaughter in order to ensure freedom of religion”. While highlighting the importance of animal welfare and the ability of Member States to introduce stricter measures providing for such, Hogan categorically stated that in his opinion a ban would amount to a restriction on the right of freedom of religion enshrined in the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union.

“This opinion is an important milestone in the protection of religious freedom in the European Union and comes at a welcome time considering the rise in anti-Semitism and anti-Jewish rhetoric in the continent. It is of extreme importance that Jews and Muslims are allowed to profess their faith without fear of repercussions or of being singled out,’’ Rabbi Margolin. The European Jewish Association hopes the Court reaches the same conclusions,’’ Rabbi Margolin said.

Yohan Benizri, president of the CCOJB, the federation of Jewish organisations in Belgium, stated:  “The European Union to which we wholeheartedly adhere cannot allow a religious freedom to be simply shattered like this. Democracy is first and foremost measured in light of the treatment of minorities, and no one could possibly question our community’s integration in Europe. I want to believe that the Court of Justice will also follow our reasoning in this case.”

After the Court’s ruling, which is expected next month, the proceedings in front of the Belgian Constitutional Court will resume.

On Thursday also, the European Commission reaffirmed its commitment to defend the freedom of religion or belief .

Asked by European Jewish Press about the Commission’s position on a proposed ban of ritual circumcision in Denmark, a spokesperson stated: ‘’The European Commission is committed to defend the freedom of religion or belief both within the European Union and abroad.’’

‘’While religious circumcision has not fallen in the scope of EU law, EU member states must ensure that all fundamental rights at stake, including the right to manifest and practice religion belief are effectively  respected and protected in line with national law and international obligations,’’ the Commission spokesperson added.

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