The parliament in Flanders, Belgian’s northern Flemish-speaking region, voted on Wednesday to ban all slaughter of animals without pre-stunning. There are no exemptions for religious slaughter as there are in some other places. Most European Union countries have such an exemption, which is specifically permitted in EU law, to protect the rights of religious communities.
The ban joins a similar piece of legislation recently passed by the parliament in Wallonia, the southern, French-speaking region.
The bans are set to come into place from 1 June 2018 in Wallonia and 1 January 2019 in Flanders. Brussels, Belgian’s third region, has not yet set out any legislation on this matter.
Moscow Chief Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt, president of the Conference of European Rabbis, said, “The news that Flanders has joined Wallonia in passing legislation banning religious slaughter is a clear attack on religious practices and a worrying omen for the future of religious rites across Europe. We cannot tolerate bans on religious practices. Leaders across Europe must protest against the ban and work to protect our religious freedoms.”
The ban has attracted disapproval outside the Jewish and Muslim communities. Church leaders from Belgium’s Catholic, Protestant and Eastern Orthodox churches have joined together to warn against using animal welfare issues to disguise attacks on religious freedom. They pointed out that only a small percentage of animals in the country are slaughtered in this way and that, “There are many problematic points in the food and meat processing industry that, due to its scale, deserve at least as much priority.”
Earlier this year, an undercover animal-rights campaigner filmed shocking scenes in an abattoir, which were widely distributed. Jewish and Muslim organizations have pointed out that the governments would be better to tackle these issues first.