Parts of Belgium bans non-stun halal and kosher slaughter
New legislation which bans the slaughter of animals without prior stunning has come in to effect in parts of Belgium.
The ban in the Flanders region of the country was put in place on New Year’s Day, following on from legislation that was passed by Belgium’s parliament in July 2017.
Similar restrictions are expected to be implemented in the country’s Wallonia region from September. The Brussels region, which has the largest Muslim population will remain the only region that will still allow Islamic halal and Jewish kosher rituals
Under the law, animals will have to be stunned electrically before being killed, which most animal rights campaigners say is more humane than the Islamic halal and Jewish kosher rituals. Both require that butchers swiftly slaughter the animal by slitting its throat and draining the blood.
The law has received broad support in the predominantly Catholic region, and the opposition from Flanders’ religious minorities illustrates the difficulties facing some European countries as they struggle to integrate immigrant populations.
Muslim leader Saatci Bayram told The New York Times: "The government asked for our advice on the ban, we responded negatively, but the advice wasn't taken.
"This ban is presented as a revelation by animal rights activists, but the debate on animal welfare in Islam has been going on for 1,500 years. Our way of ritual slaughtering is painless."
As stunning larger animals is not possible without also fatally wounding them, the law requires animals such as cattle be stunned immediately after their throats are cut if slaughtered in a ritual manner.
Countries including Denmark, Switzerland and New Zealand already prohibit unstunned slaughter.
In 2014 Veterinary Ireland called on the Department of Agriculture to engage with Muslim and Jewish authorities in order to identify methods of stunning that were acceptable to their religious beliefs.
John Fishwisk of the British Veterinary Association said it wants to see the stunning of all animals prior to slaughter to improve animal welfare.
“Our focus on this has nothing to do with the expression of religious beliefs, but is about finding ways to reduce the welfare harm of non-stun slaughter,” he said.
“If slaughter without stunning continues to be permitted in the UK, then meat and fish from this source must be clearly labelled, to help customers make informed choices about the food that they buy and eat.”