The Walloon region’s parliament banned ritual slaughter on Friday in a move that many warn will hurt Jewish and Muslim residents’ freedom of religion
The Belgian Walloon Parliament’s environment committee on Friday voted unanimously to ban the slaughter of unstunned animals, which thus outlaws shechita (slaughter) according to Jewish law as well as Islamic halal rituals.
Both require that butchers swiftly slaughter the animal by slitting its throat and draining the blood, but most animal rights campaigners say it is more humane to stun animals electrically before killing them.
According to the text which was amended and voted on Friday, the implementation of the law is to be delayed until September 1, 2019.
The Parliament’s plenary will debate the issue later this month. A similar move has been proposed by the parliament in the Flanders region.
The decision has sparked outrage in the Jewish community, with Abraham Guigui, the country’s chief rabbi, slamming the vote as hypocritical while noting that hunting for entertainment is permitted by law. “We will fight resolutely against the legislation, which was also prohibited by the constitutional court, by all means available to us,” he said.
In February, the constitutional court of Belgium’s southern Wallonia region announced that shechita was permissible under that country’s law and would continue to be conducted according to Jewish religious law.
President of the Conference of Rabbis and Chief Rabbi of Moscow Pinchas Goldschmidt said in response to the vote that “the attack against the freedom of religion for Jews and Muslims and in full swing,” 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. The capital of the European Union has cast a black stain over the darkening skies of Europe,” he added.
The European Jewish Congress also strongly condemned the decision, calling it “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. 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 antisemites and to those intolerant of other communities and faiths,” EJC President Dr. Moshe Kantor said.
“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.
The European Jewish Congress and its affiliates stand in total solidarity with the Jewish community of Belgium in its fight to maintain its most basic religious freedoms,” he added.