A law banning ritual slaughter of animals required in the Muslim and Orthodox Jewish religions went into effect in Belgium January 1.
In an article in The New York Times, Brussels-based journalist Milan Schreuer writes:
“Laws across Europe and European Union regulations require that animals be rendered insensible to pain before slaughter, to make the process more humane. For larger animals, stunning before slaughter usually means using a ‘captive bolt’ device that fires a metal rod into the brain; for poultry it usually means an electric shock. Animals can also be knocked out with gas.
“But slaughter by Muslim halal and Jewish kosher rules requires that an animal be in perfect health—which religious authorities say rules out stunning it first—and be killed with a single cut to the neck that severs critical blood vessels. The animal loses consciousness in seconds, and advocates say it may cause less suffering than other methods, not more.”
If their appeal to the Constitutional Court of Belgium fails, Muslims and Orthodox Jews wishing to observe halal and kosher rules will have to import their meat and poultry from other countries which provide for these requirements.
“The government asked for our advice on the ban, we responded negatively, but the advice wasn’t taken,” said Saatci Bayram, a leader of the Muslim community. “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.”
“This sets a bad example for other countries," said Rabbi Menachem Margolin, chairman of the Europe Jewish Association. "This puts a shadow on our community and Jewish laws, as it is essentially saying that we cannot be trusted with the welfare of animals—that we need government supervision. This is a terrible precedent to set on an international level."
Some 500,000 Muslims and more than 30,000 Jews live in Belgium.
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