Belgian region parliamentary committee votes to ban ritual slaughter


(JTA) — A committee of the Walloon Parliament in southern Belgium has voted to ban the slaughter of unstunned animals, a requirement for both kosher and halal ritual slaughter.

The environment committee of the Walloon Parliament voted unanimously on Friday for the ban, which takes effect on Sept. 1, 2019. The issue is set to be debated later this month in the Parliament’s plenary, according to the European Jewish Congress.  Similar legislation has been proposed by the parliament in the northern Belgium Flanders or Flemish region.

Shechitah, the ritual method of slaughtering animals, requires they be conscious when their throats are slit — a practice that critics say is cruel but which advocates insist is more humane than mechanized methods used in non-kosher abattoirs. Muslims slaughter animals in a similar method, albeit with fewer restrictions, to produce halal meat.

EJC President Dr. Moshe Kantor called the decision “scandalous.”

“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. 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 anti-Semites and to those intolerant of other communities and faiths,” Kantor said, vowing to “not rest until this ban is overturned and Jews in Europe are able to practice their most basic religious rights.”

Last month, Philippe Markiewicz, president of the Consistoire organization of Belgian Jewry that is responsible for providing religious services, pleaded with Walloon region lawmakers not to “repeat the Nazis’ acts.”

“The last assault on ritual slaughter was in October 1940 under the Nazi occupation because they knew how important it was for Jews,” Markiewicz said during an address in the city of Namur at the Parliament of Wallonia. The statement was unusual because Jewish community officials rarely draw comparisons between present-day issues and the Nazi occupation, which remains a sensitive subject in Belgium.

The move in the Walloon region, which has only a few hundred Jews, follows an agreement in March that imposes limitations on ritual slaughter in the Flemish region, where half of Belgium’s Jewish population of 40,000 people live. The remaining 20,000 live in the Brussels region.

According to the Joods Actueel monthly, Flemish Region politicians are seeking the consent of Muslim and Jewish faith communities to a proposal in which small animals would be non-lethally stunned with electricity before they are killed. Larger animals would receive “irreversible stunning” — a term that usually describes a bolt pin to the brain — within seconds of the slashing of their throats in a procedure known as post-cut stunning. Some Orthodox Jewish communities and their faith leaders, including in Austria, have accepted post-cut stunning.

Regardless of whether an agreement is reached, a ban on the slaughter of animals without stunning will become effective in January 2019 in the Flemish region, according to De Morgen daily.

In Europe, the Jewish and Muslim customs have united opponents both from liberal circles who cite animal welfare as their main concern and right-wing nationalists who view the custom as foreign to their countries’ cultures.

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