The environment committee of Belgium’s French-speaking Walloon Parliament voted unanimously on Friday 5 May for the ban on halal and kosher meat. Now, the bill needs parliamentary approval to go through with a vote set for May. If this passes, halal and kosher slaughter will be phased out by 2019.
Further bans on halal and kosher slaughter could be rolled out across Belgium too, as the regional parliament in Flanders, Belgium, has also proposed a ban.
The controversial move has sparked a furious reaction from Muslim and Jewish groups, who claim the ban is an abuse of religious freedom.
Ban compared to Nazi occupation
European Jewish Congress (EJC) president Moshe Kantor called it “the greatest assault on Jewish religious rights in Belgium since the Nazi occupation of the country in World War II”.
Kantor said the ban “attacks the very core of our culture and religious practice and our status as equal citizens”.
The EJC said it would fight to ensure the ban in Belgium was overturned, claiming it was a flagrant abuse of the EU’s freedom of religion laws.
Meat industry remains silent
Religious slaughter and animal welfare are intrinsically linked issues that divide opinion.
Jewish kosher (shechita) and halal slaughter (dhabihah) rituals require a butcher to swiftly kill the animal by slitting its throat and draining the blood. Both techniques have religious significance for Jewish and Muslim communities, but activists who claim the animal should be stunned, so it does not feel pain, have called the slaughter method inhumane.
However, the Department of Halal Certification claims stunning can be cruel and affects the draining of blood from a carcase, creating poor quality meat.
Belgium-based processor Derwa Meat operates a large halal division, but could not be reached for comment at the time of writing.