Jewish Community in Belgium Files Lawsuit to Overturn Ban on Religious Slaughter of Animals

The Belgian Jewish Community has filed a lawsuit challenging a law passed last May by the parliament of Belgium southern Walloon region banning the kosher slaughter of animals.

The lawsuit was submitted Monday to Belgium’s Constitutional Court by CCOJB, the umbrella representative of Belgiul’s Jewish Organizations. COOJB acts as the branch of the European Jewish Congress and the World Jewish Congress.

The lawsuit is being supported by The Lawfare Project, a Legal Think Tank and Civil Rights litigation fund which files legal cases against anti-Jewish discrimination around the world.

The Parliaments of both the Wallonia and Flanders regions, the two largest in Belgium, passed laws earlier this year designed to outlaw religious slaughter, which includes kosher and halal slaughter.

In May, the Wallonia parliament voted unanimously to ban the traditional methods of religious slaughter.

The parliament in Flanders, where half of Belgium’s Jews live and where the majority of Belgium’s kosher facilities provide meat for Jewish communities in Belgium and beyond, followed suit in July.

The CCOJB and The Lawfare Project may file a similar lawsuit against the Flanders legislation early in 2018. 

If the legislation is not annulled prior to coming into force in 2019 it would undermine the ability of minority faith communities to practice central tenets of their religions in Belgium.

“Such legislation violates harmonized EU law on this issue, the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, the European Convention on Human Rights and the Belgian Constitution itself, all of which guarantee freedom of religion”, - CCOJB says.

CCOJB President Yohan Benizri, who is also Vice-President of the World Jewish Congress, who submitted the lawsuit said:

“Irrespective of its justification, a ban on kosher meat production sends a message to Belgian Jews that they can choose between living in Belgium and practicing their religion, but they cannot do both. It sends a clear message to Belgium’s Jewish and Muslim communities that they are not welcome here. This is a violation of Belgian constitutional principles,  EU law, and the freedom of religion enshrined as a fundamental right - we will challenge it as such, in Wallonia and in Flanders.”

“This lawsuit will also make it clear how important animal welfare is for us. In fact, it is particularly taxing that some try to portray our tradition as cruel whereas Jewish laws and traditions aim precisely at promoting animal welfare throughout the animal life cycle.”

Brooke Goldstein, Executive Director of The Lawfare Project, which is supporting the lawsuit declared: “This legislation is an attack on religious freedom in Belgium and must be challenged. Belgium’s Jews are a longstanding and integrated community. It is shameful to attack their ability to live a Jewish life as proud Belgian citizens.”

European Jewish Congress President Mosher Kantor said: "The European Jewish Congress has expressed its deep concern about the situation in Belgium and the wrong and unacceptable message it sends in Europe. We fully support this important initiative of our Belgian affiliate, the CCOJB, and will continue to fight to protect Jewish life all over Europe"