Belgium has banned the Muslim and Jewish ways of ritually slaughtering animals because they are not humane, it says. The law came into effect on January 1.
Religious minorities in Belgium – there are 500,000 Muslims and 30,000 Jews in the country that has a population of 11 million – are worried they are the targets of bigotry disguised as animal protection.
Laws across Europe require the animals to be rendered insensible to pain before being slaughtered to make the process more humane. For larger animals, they use a ‘captive bolt’ device that fires a metal rod into the brain and for poultry (chickens and other birds) they use electric shocks. Sometimes they also knock animals out with gas.
According to Muslim halal and Jewish kosher rules the animals must be in perfect health – which religious authorities say rules out stunning them first. The animals are killed with a single cut to the neck. The animal loses consciousness in seconds and, according to advocates, suffers less than other methods.
But activists say the Muslim and Jewish way of slaughtering is inhumane.
Most countries in the European Union allow religious exceptions to the stunning requirement but Belgium is joining Sweden, Norway, Iceland, Denmark and Slovenia as one of the nations that does not provide for any exceptions.
Muslim and Jewish leaders say they have filed lawsuits in Belgium’s Constitutional Court to lift the ban on slaughtering.
The ban was first proposed by Ben Weyts, a right-wing Flemish nationalist and the minister of animal welfare. It was applauded by both animal rights and nationalist groups.