The debates in Belgium on prohibition of the slaughter of animals without prior stunning are carefully monitored abroad. The Muslim and Jewish communities generally consider this ban to be contrary to their religious dietary prescriptions. It therefore prevents the production of meat considered halal or kosher.
“We cannot say at the same time that we are fighting anti-Semitism, that we are protecting the synagogues, and at the same time preventing us from living our traditions and our Judaism”, indignantly the president of the Israelite consistory of France Joël Mergui, passing through Brussels. “Ritual slaughter has been around since Judaism has existed. It is not at odds with animal welfare. Animal welfare is a fundamental concept, as is freedom of worship. The two are compatible. “
Multiplication of prohibitions
Muslims similarly perceive restrictions on slaughter methods as attacks on their freedom of worship. “This form of interference is particularly worrying because it attacks head-on religious freedom, one of the fundamental values of human rights and of our Belgian Constitution”, already wrote in 2017 Mustapha Chairi, president of the Collective Against Islamophobia in Belgium.
European Jews and Muslims are fighting a growing trend in de facto bans on ritual slaughter. The Brussels Region in turn begins this debate, after the highest Belgian and European justice authorities have validated the rules set in Flanders and Wallonia.
Jewish and Muslim organizations had challenged before the Constitutional Court the Flemish decree which had the effect of preventing slaughter according to Jewish and Muslim rites. The Belgian Court turned to the EU Court of Justice. Luxembourg Court confirmed in December last, the possibility for a country to impose the preliminary stunning of the animal during its slaughter. The Belgian Constitutional Court therefore validated the regional decrees.
Animal rights activists and secularism defenders obviously welcomed this confirmation. For Hervé Parmentier, deputy secretary general of the Center d’Action Laïque, the judgment of the Constitutional Court confirms that “if the freedom of religion and conscience remains total, the religious prescriptions must for their part conform to the civil law and to the democratic values which underlie it “.
Still changing legislation
“It is a huge disappointment for religious communities, but above all it is a shame for our country”, rebels Yohan Benizri, however, president of the Coordinating Committee of Jewish Organizations in Belgium, who is also vice-president of the European Jewish Congress. “The fight, both legal and political, will not end for all that. We will continue to defend our values with dignity and legally.”, he announces
This is because the legislation in European countries on this issue is still in flux. Some countries have banned ritual slaughter (Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Estonia, Slovenia). Others, like the Netherlands and Poland, had also banned it before reversing. The other states have so far tolerated a religious exception to the general European rule which requires stunning prior to slaughter.
Bans in Belgium are part of a fight across Europe between animal welfare activists and representatives of Muslim and Jewish communities
But the debate is regularly rekindled here and there. In France, the broadcast of a report from the magazine Correspondent from France 2 started a controversy in 2012, which has since calmed down. But personalities surfing the wave of identity regularly put the subject forward.
The subject is being followed closely in Israel. “The bans in Belgium are part of a fight across Europe between animal welfare activists and representatives of Muslim and Jewish communities over halal and kosher slaughter methods“, underline the Times of Israel. He notes that “A similar struggle is unfolding around the non-medical circumcision of boys, or milah, which some child rights activists call cruel.” These debates would be fueled by “anti-immigration activists and politicians” in order to minimize the Muslim and Jewish presence in Europe.
The Belgian Muslim Executive is also concerned about this risk: “The rule of law must not give in to growing political and social pressure from populist movements waging a symbolic struggle against vulnerable minorities across Europe”, writes the Executive in reaction to the decision of the Constitutional Court. He denounces “an emotional symbolic measure”, which forces all citizens to enter “the shackles of a simplistic fictitious solution”.
Some stress that the obligation of prior stunning on Belgian soil will push the meat sector to import carcasses from countries which allow ritual slaughter.
“Nallow you to live our traditions “
“Belgium and various European countries must review their position on this subject”, implores Joël Mergui. “If we want that in 10 or 20 years there will still be Jewish enlightenment in Europe, we must not only ensure our security, but also allow us to live our traditions. Respect the Shabbat, eat kosher, family life , to meditate in a synagogue: these traditions do not threaten public order. ‘we want there to be 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 practice our worship quietly. “