British campaigners for the protection of kosher slaughter in Europe have hailed a legal win in Belgium after a constitutional court dismissed a challenge, ruling it permissible under the country’s laws.
In a statement, the Conference of European Rabbis said the court found that “the restriction of kosher slaughter excessively and unreasonably restricts freedom of religion and seriously harms the fundamental laws of human rights and religious rights in Belgium”.
Belgium’s Chief Rabbi Abraham Guigui, who led the campaign in the state of Wallonia, said the decision was “important in the message it conveys to all European countries where there are people who seek to restrict kosher slaughter”.
Shimon Cohen, campaign director at Shechita UK, welcomed the landmark ruling, saying: “We are delighted with the news from Belgium and we would like to pay tribute to Rabbi Guigui for his work in protecting Shechita.”
It comes after legislators in the Wallonia parliament launched a campaign against shechita, and pushed a law arguing that kosher slaughter should not be exempt from Belgian law stating that animals must be stunned before they are killed.
Ben Weyts, animal welfare minister in the government of the Flemish Region, had also called for a blanket ban on the custom, a policy that would have affected observant Jews and Muslims.
Shechita is currently banned in Scandinavia and Switzerland, while in Estonia, Austria and Poland the practice is subject to limitations. It was also banned in The Netherlands six years ago, but the country’s senate overturned it in 2012.