Belgium bans Halal animal slaughter

25th Jan 2019

Aqila Mumthaz

The slaughter of non-stunned animals was banned in Flander the northern region of Belgium on January 1. A similar one will take effect in September this year in the southern region of Wallonia.

Belgium, with a population of about 11 million, is home to approximately 500,000 Muslims. Halal meat will still be available in shops across Belgium, but with added costs to transport it from further afield where the slaughter is still legal. Those who adhere to their religious rules will soon be forced to order their meat from abroad, which community members say will mean paying more and could even lead to food shortages.

Much of Europe’s halal meat comes from animals that are stunned before their throats are slit; Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Slovenia, Lithuania, Switzerland, Iceland and Norway have already banned ritual slaughter that isn’t pre-stunned.

But Muslims say their faith demands the animals be in perfect health at the moment of death. Defenders of the law insist it is motivated purely by animal welfare. Belgian Animal rights campaign group GAIA wants the Brussels region to join the ban.

President Michel Vandenbosch said: “We are not seeking the prohibition of ritual slaughter, simply that an end is put to the suffering that is technically avoidable.”

“The Government asked for our advice on the ban, we responded negatively, but the advice wasn’t taken,” said Saatci Bayram, a leader of the Muslim community. “This ban is presented as a revelation by animal welfare activists, but the debate on animal welfare in Islam has been going on for 1,500 years. Our way of ritual slaughtering is painless.”

Joos Roets, a lawyer representing an umbrella organization of Islamic institutions, said the ban was motivated more by stigmatizing certain groups than concerns over animal welfare.

The Government could take other steps to reduce animal suffering, he said, “without violating the Belgian freedom of religion and the European regulation regarding this matter.”

Ben Weyts, a right-wing Flemish nationalist and the minister in the Flanders Government who is responsible for animal welfare first proposed the idea for the ban and was approved by the Flemish Parliament in June 2017.

Right-wing politicians in several countries, particularly those opposed to the presence of growing Muslim populations, have seized on the issue of religious slaughter as an example of Western societies bending over backwards to accommodate minority communities.

Ann De Greef, Director of Global Action in the Interest of Animals, a Belgian animal welfare group, insisted that stunning does not conflict with kosher and halal doctrine, and “they could still consider it ritual slaughtering,” but the religious authorities refuse to accept that.

“They want to keep living in the Middle Ages and continue to slaughter without stunning — as the technique didn’t yet exist back then — without having to answer to the law,” she said.

“Well, I’m sorry, in Belgium the law is above religion and that will stay like that.” “The truth is that this measure was an easy win, which had the backing of large parts of the population concerned with animal rights,” said Bayram, aligning them, at least momentarily, with the far right.

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