Belgium’s Walloon Region has voted to ban ritual slaughter (Jewish ‘shechitah’ and Muslim ‘halal’), forbidding any slaughter in which the animals are not stunned first. Critics call the move an attack against the “freedom of religion for Jews and Muslims.”
Jewish communities say the ban in Belgium’s southern French-speaking region violates the fundamental right to practice their faith, insisting that biblical slaughter practices (without stunning animals first to reduce their pain) means that animals have to be conscious when being killed.
Animal rights activists are strongly against the slaughter of an animal before it is rendered insensible to pain, however.
The European Jewish Congress called the decision to ban all stunning-less slaughter “scandalous.”
“This decision, in the heart of Western Europe and the center of the European Union, sends a terrible message to Jewish communities throughout our continent that Jews are unwanted,” European Jewish Congress (EJC) President Dr. Moshe Kantor said.
“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 succor to anti-Semites and to those intolerant of other communities and faiths.”
“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,” he added.
The Walloon Parliament’s Friday vote to ban the slaughter of conscious animals has also come under fire from Belgium’s chief rabbi, Abraham Guigui.
“We will fight resolutely against the legislation, which was also prohibited by the constitutional court, by all means available to us,” he said as cited by the Jerusalem Post.
President of the Conference of Rabbis and Chief Rabbi of Moscow Pinchas Goldschmidt said the vote was an “attack against the freedom of religion for Jews and Muslims,” accusing parties of “riding on the wave of hate and fear that flows through extremist parties in order to win votes”.
“It is regrettable that the heart of Europe, which should have been an example to all the countries of the continent, has issued a call for war against the freedom of religion of minorities,” he added.
Parliament’s plenary will now debate the issue later this month. The implementation of the law is to be delayed until September 2019.