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Under the law, animals have to be stunned before being killed. “It is a sad day for religious freedom in Europe”, the president of the Conference of European Rabbis says.
Animal slaughter without pre-stunning has been banned in the region of Flanders, in the north of Belgium, on January 1.
Wallonia, the French-speaking region of southern Belgium, is set to introduce a ban in September. In contrast, Brussels is the only region which has not adopted the controversial measure.
The regional Parliament unanimously voted to outlaw the ritual practices that Islam and Judaism have long used in June 2017.
Belgium is home to about 500,000 Muslims and more than 30,000 Jews, who are worried that the ban will lead to higher prices and possible food shortages.
A LAW AGAINST HALAL AND KOSHER RITUALS
The move, initiated by Flemish Minister of Mobility and Public Works, Tourism and Animal Welfare, Ben Weyts, has prompted a furious outcry from religious groups, with claims it is motivated by Islamophobia and anti-Semitism.
Under the law, animals will have to be stunned electrically before being killed, which most animal rights defenders believe is more humane than the Islamic halal and Jewish kosher rituals.
However, both the Muslim halal and Jewish kosher rituals need that animals should be in perfect health and conscious, and that butchers slaughter the animal by slitting its throat and draining the blood.
“A SAD DAY FOR RELIGIOUS FREEDOM IN EUROPE”
Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt, the president of the Conference of European Rabbis,slammed the move as “a sad day for the Jews of Europe, a sad day for religious freedom in Europe. Radical Islam has won”.
“This ban is presented as a revelation by animal rights activists, but the debate on animal welfare in Islam has been going on for 1,500 years. Our way of ritual slaughtering is painless”, he added.
The law was branded the “greatest assault on Jewish religious rights in Belgium since the Nazi occupation” by the European Jewish Congress in May 2017.
“CONTINUE LIVING IN THE MIDDLE AGES”
“Cutting the throat of a living animal is making it suffer. There are people who want to continue living in the Middle Ages”, said Ann de Greef, director of the GAIA animal organization, involved in the negotiations.
The Federation of Veterinarians of Europe sees unacceptable slaughter without stunning, due to the stress generated by the process to the animal, and the risk of prolonging its agony several minutes until it finally loses consciousness.
EU ALLOWS EACH STATE TO DECIDE
The European directive allows each State to decide if religious rituals of sacrifice are exempt from complying with the precept of stunning the animal in advance, obligatory for the rest.
Sweden, Denmark, Slovenia, Norway and Iceland already ban ritual slaughter. There is a debate now in Finland, and Poland prohibited it, but in 2014 justice called the decision unconstitutional.
Meanwhile, in Germany and the Netherlands, religious slaughter methods are generally forbidden, although exceptions can be made.
In Austria, it is only permitted to take place at specially approved slaughterhouses, in the presence of a veterinarian.