EU official: Belgium ban on religious slaughter paints Muslims as ‘medieval’

Halal meat

Belgium’s ban on the religious slaughter of animals by Muslims and Jews has the potential to paint both minorities as “medieval” with no regard for animal life, the EU’s top official tasked with fighting antisemitism across Europe has said.

The regions of Flanders and Wallonia have banned the killing of animals without pre-stunning since 2019, citing animal welfare. Muslims and Jews eat halal and kosher meat which is obtained only through ritual slaughter without pre-stunning the animal.

In an interview with POLITICO magazine at the European Jewish Community Centre in Brussels, Katharina von Schnurbein said: “The discussion itself puts the Jews and also the Muslims in this case into a corner of ‘you do harm to animals, or you are medieval.’”

Although the ban was challenged by religious groups, the EU Court of Justice upheld it. The court said that EU countries can restrict no-stun slaughter in order to promote animal welfare.

The court also stated that it should not infringe on religious rights. Bans are permissible provided countries do not contravene the EU’s charter of fundamental human rights, it ruled.

Schnurbein said: “In some countries, we have seen also that this was only the start, and then the discussion about circumcision was next.”

Religious groups have apprehensions that the ruling by Belgium sets a precedent that can be followed by more bans across Europe, she said, adding that it is “difficult to say” if other countries will follow the suit.

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EU countries like Sweden, Slovenia, Denmark and Austria already restricted religious slaughter before Belgium.

In the UK some animal rights groups are lobbying to slaughter animals without stunning them. A report by the British think tank, The Centre for Muslim Policy Research (CMPR) said: “The slaughter of animals for food production as per the religious rituals of Muslims and Jews is currently under threat from animal rights organisations who are campaigning to implement a blanket ban on slaughter without stunning.”

Muslim and Jewish communities require specific conditions under which an animal should be slaughtered for it to be fit for their consumption, as per Zabiha (for Muslims) and Shechita (for Jews) guidelines. Stunning an animal before slaughter presents doubt on whether the animal is permissible for consumption for Muslims and Jews, as per these guidelines.

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