Infuriating Jews and Upsetting Muslims, Belgium May Soon Ban Kosher and Halal Slaughter

In 2014, Denmark outlawed halal and kosher slaughter. The country’s agriculture minister explained at the time that animal rights trumped religion.

Now it’s Belgium’s turn. Probably.

shutterstock_635935913

Belgium’s Wallooon region has voted to ban kosher and halal meats by outlawing the slaughter of unstunned animals. The environment committee of southern Belgium’s Walloon Parliament voted unanimously for the ban, which will take effect in September 2019 if the parliament’s plenary approves the ban later this month.

… 

Similar legislation has been proposed by the parliament in the northern Flemish region.

For meat to be considered kosher by Jews or halal by Muslims, the animal must be conscious when killed. In theory, that goes against the law since slaughterhouses are required to electrically stun the animals first, to lessen mental and physical suffering. Most countries have granted exemptions for religious slaughter, but in Europe, that unanimity is crumbling.

Proponents of religious animal slaughter say that their method is more humane than the stun approach. They claim that cows, sheep, and goats suffer less with a sharp blade drawn swiftly across the throat. At the risk of anthropomorphizing the issue, I doubt that that’s true, and I invite you to imagine what they (the halal/kosher advocates) would prefer for themselves, if they were sentenced to die: stunned then slashed, or slashed while fully conscious?

Jewish organizations are incensed by the news from Belgium, with the European Jewish Congress issuing a particularly furious condemnation.

“This decision, in the heart of Western Europe and the centre of the European Union, sends a terrible message to Jewish communities throughout our continent that Jews are unwanted,” EJC president 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 antisemites 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.”

By comparison, Muslims, while making no secret of their disapproval, reacted with much more verbal restraint.

Belgium’s Muslim community said its religious council has previously expressed its opposition to stunned slaughter and there had been no change in its stance since then. “Muslims are worried about whether they can eat halal food … in conformity with their religious rites and beliefs,” the Belgian Muslim Executive said.

A third European nation that banned halal/kosher slaughter is Switzerland, but that’s nothing new; the Swiss made that decision in an 1893 (not a typo) plebiscite. A newcomer to the movement is the Netherlands, which mandated across-the-board stunning in abattoirs back in January.

(Image via Shutterstock)

About Terry Firma

Terry Firma, though born and Journalism-school-educated in Europe, has lived in the U.S. for the past 20-odd years. Stateside, his feature articles have been published in the New York Times, Reason, Rolling Stone, Playboy, and Wired. Terry is the founder of Moral Compass, a now dormant site that poked fun at the delusional claim by people of faith that a belief in God equips them with superior moral standards. He joined Friendly Atheist in 2013.