Shechitah will be banned in the Flanders region of Belgium from Jan. 1, 2019 – next Tuesday. This is the enactment of a law which was passed in June 2017, requiring that all animals must be stunned before slaughter, irrespective of religious requirements. Antwerp, with its large kehillah constituting about half the Jewish population of Belgium, is located in Flanders, and the new law is set to create considerable hardship for the community there.
In the time between the law passing and coming into force, the Belgian Jewish community have challenged its legality in the country’s courts. The Belgian Federation of Jewish Organizations, the World Jewish Congress and the Belgian section of the European Jewish Congress filed a suit in January, arguing that the new law violates EU law, the European Convention on Human Rights and the Belgian Constitution. Legislation in all of these guarantees freedom of religion, which is breached by forcing all meat to be pre-stunned.
The Walloon region also passed similar legislation in 2017, which is set to come into force in August 2019. This was also challenged in the Belgian courts.
At the time the legislation was passed, the president of the Belgian Federation of Jewish Organizations, Yohan Benizri, said, “Legislators have given Belgian Jews a worrisome political signal, by trumping their right to practice their faith, in violation of the crucial principle of separation of church and state. That’s very sad, but it is also unlawful. It is a violation of European legal norms, including the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, and we are hopeful it will be overturned as such. If this legislation ever comes into force it would be a dark day for freedom in Belgium.”
It seems that this “dark day” has come. Hamodia spoke to a mashgiach kashrus in Antwerp, who said that there will be no more shechitah there, even of chickens. He said that he fears that he will lose his parnassah, as well as have difficulty in obtaining meat for his family.