Are kosher and halal slaughter dying out?

Are kosher and halal slaughter dying out?

The slaughter of animals without prior stunning is banned in several countries. This means that both kosher and halal slaughter are not permitted, leading to huge problems for both Jewish and Muslim communities. However, experiencing the same problem may bring the two religious groups closer together.

Belgium has been one of the latest countries banning the slaughter of animals without prior stunning. This ban is the result of calls from animal welfare activists.[1] Therefore, Belgium’s animal welfare lobby GAIA sees the ban as a huge victory. According to its president: “If it can be prevented, it should be prevented.” Former Flemish Parliament lawmaker Hermes Sanctorum believes that the ban has already had a positive impact, stating that “animal suffering is reduced in a fundamental way.”[2]

Ban on kosher and halal slaughter
However, whilst a clear victory for the animal welfare lobby, the ban has huge implications for the Jewish and Muslim communities in the country. In both religions, animals must be in perfect health when they are slaughtered. Stunning is therefore not allowed. This means that a ban on killing animals without prior stunning is effectively a ban on both kosher and halal methods of slaughter.[3]

Currently, many European countries require the stunning of animals prior to slaughter, but have exceptions for kosher and halal slaughter on the basis of religious freedom. As well as now Belgium, several European countries have full bans on traditional slaughter without stunning, such as Sweden, Denmark, and Slovenia.[4] In other countries, kosher and halal slaughter is permitted, but with strict regulations. For example, the Netherlands does not allow kosher and halal meat to be exported. In Spain, the practice requires veterinary permission and in Austria those who carry out halal or kosher slaughtering require a permit.[5]

Anti-Semitism and Islamophobia
There are serious concerns that animal welfare is not the true reason for the ban. The Belgian Jewish and Muslim community both fear that animal rights may cover the actual reasons for banning halal and kosher slaughter: anti-Semitism and Islamophobia.[6] In the view of Mustapha Chairi, president of human rights organisation The Collective Against Islamophobia, the law is a result of European Islamophobia and anti-Semitism. He and others believe that the ban may have been pushed through in order to limit religious freedom of these religious groups.[7]

Results of the ban
Mohamed Bouezmarni, head of the Muslim association in the Belgian town of Arlon, fears that halal and kosher slaughter may be done illegally as a result of the ban.[8] Moreover, as long as no ban is imposed in more European countries, restaurants and stores may simply buy their meat in another country and import it to Belgium.[9]

As a result of the ban, Belgian Muslims and Jews face the same issue. As stated by Pinchas Goldschmidt, president of the Conference of European Rabbis: “If there is one positive thing that happened from these new attempts to curtail religious freedom it is bringing the Jewish and Muslim communities closer together.”[10]

Anne Clerx

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[1] Belgian region bans Halal and Kosher slaughter of animals
[2] Belgium tests EU rules on halal and kosher slaughter
[3] Flanders region of Belgium bans halal and kosher animal slaughter
[4] Belgium tests EU rules on halal and kosher slaughter
[5] All The European Countries Where Kosher and Halal Meat Production Are Now Forbidden
[6] Belgium tests EU rules on halal and kosher slaughter
[7] Belgian region bans Halal and Kosher slaughter of animals
[8] Belgium tests EU rules on halal and kosher slaughter
[9] Aan de overkant van de grens mag ritueel slachten nog wel
[10] Belgium tests EU rules on halal and kosher slaughter

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