Belgium’s largest region has voted to ban halal and kosher meats by prohibiting the slaughter of animals which are not stunned.
The environment committee of south Belgium’s Walloon Parliament unanimously voted for the ban, which will come into effect on 1 September 2019.
Both Muslim halal and Jewish kosher rituals require the butcher to swiftly slaughter the animal by slitting its throat and draining its blood, a process which animal rights campaigners argue is more “humane” if animals are stunned.
A similar law has been suggested by the parliament in the northern Flemish region.
Belgium’s Muslim community said its religious council has voiced its opposition to stunned slaughter in the past and there had been no change in its position since then.
The Belgian Muslim Executive said: “Muslims are worried about whether they can eat halal food … in conformity with their religious rites and beliefs.”
The president of the European Jewish Congress, Moshe Kantor: “This decision, in the heart of Western Europe and the centre of the European Union, sends a terrible message to Jewish communities throughout our continent that Jews are unwanted.
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“It attacks the very core of our culture and religious practice and our status as equal citizens with equal rights in a democratic society. It gives succour to antisemites and to those intolerant of other communities and faiths.”
He added: “We call on legislators to step back from the brink of the greatest assault on Jewish religious rights in Belgium since the Nazi occupation of the country in World War II.”
Countries including New Zealand, Denmark and Switzerland already outlawed unstunned slaughter.