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As Belgium bans kosher and halal food prep, religious freedom fears grow

Jews and Muslims in Belgium could face difficulty finding food prepared according to their religious rules, as new animal slaughter regulations banning kosher or halal slaughter began to take effect on January 1.

Joos Roets, a lawyer who represents a group of Islamic institutions, argued that the ban was intended to stigmatize some religious groups rather than its stated purpose, to protect animals from suffering. The government could have taken other steps to protect animals “without violating the Belgian freedom of religion,” Roets told the New York Times.

Both Muslim and Jewish rules regarding animal slaughter require that the animals be in perfect health at the time of slaughter. They are to be killed with a single cut to the neck.

European Union rules and rules in European countries require that animals be made insensible to pain before slaughter. This means techniques like knocking animals out with gas, delivering an electric shock to small animals like poultry, or using a “captive bolt” device that fires a metal rod to the brain of larger animals, the New York Times reports.

Religious authorities say some of these measures, like stunning an animal, violate their slaughter requirements. Some advocates of kosher and halal slaughter say animals lose consciousness in seconds under their methods and may even suffer less.

Ann De Greef, director of the Belgium-based Global Action in the Interest of Animals, argued that stunning does not conflict with the religious rules.

De Greef was also disdainful towards the religious practices of the law’s critics.

“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.”

Read more at Catholic Herald. 

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