Jewish leaders in Europe have lamented “with great sadness” the introduction of a ban on religious slaughter in the Belgian region of Wallonia.
The latest European ban, which affects both Jewish and Muslim communities, takes effect from 1 September and follows a similar ban initiated in the neighbouring Belgian region of Flanders, which took effect earlier this year.
In April, a Belgian court referred an appeal against the ban to the European Court of Justice to ask for a non-binding opinion on whether it was compatible with EU law. That could come in the next two years and set a precedent for the continent.
Before the Belgian law came into effect, several European states such as Denmark and Sweden had already issued their own bans on kosher and halal slaughter, and analysts say that Belgian vote in 2017 was mainly due to surging anti-immigrant feeling.
The Coordinating Committee of Jewish Organizations in Belgium (CCOJB) has challenged the law in a fight against well-organised animal rights activists in the battle over non-stun slaughter.
Lawyers for the CCOJB have pointed to the European Court of Human Rights’ previous description of kosher slaughter as “an essential aspect of practice of the Jewish religion”.
This week Chief Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt, president of the Conference of European Rabbis, said it was “with great sadness” that Jews were witnessing another ban on religious slaughter.
“This infringement on religious practice is the latest in a long trend of anti-religious sentiment in Europe, exacerbated by a rise in antisemitic attacks and alarming rhetoric espoused from both the far-left and far-right,” he said.
“European leaders need to recognise that actions speak louder than words. Saying Jews are welcome in Europe while restricting our ability to practice our faith raises serious questions about the future of European Jewry.”
In the UK, the British Veterinary Association has said it “would like to see all animals stunned before slaughter… This has nothing to do with the expression of religious beliefs, but is about reducing the welfare harm of non-stun slaughter”.
It added: “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.”