Belgian Jewish community files lawsuit against ban on kosher slaughter

The Belgian Jewish community is fighting a ban on kosher slaughter in two Belgian provinces, saying it is a violation of religious freedom.

By: World Israel News Staff

The Belgian Jewish community has filed a lawsuit challenging a law passed in May by the parliament of the Walloon region banning the kosher slaughter of animals.

The lawsuit was submitted Thursday by the Belgian Federation of Jewish Organizations (CCOJB), the representative body of Belgian Jews. The lawsuit is being supported by The Lawfare Project, a legal think tank and civil rights litigation fund that files legal cases protecting against anti-Semitic discrimination around the world.

The Parliaments of both the Wallonia and Flanders regions, the two largest in Belgium, passed laws earlier this year designed to outlaw religious slaughter, which includes kosher and Muslim halal slaughter.

Kosher slaughtering of animals requires they be conscious when slaughtered — a practice that critics say is cruel, but which advocates insist is more humane than mechanized methods used in non-kosher slaughterhouses.

In May, the Wallonia parliament voted unanimously to ban the traditional methods of religious slaughter. The parliament in Flanders, where half of Belgium’s Jewish population of 40,000 live and where the majority of Belgium’s kosher facilities provide meat for Jewish communities in Belgium and beyond, followed suit in July.

CCOJB and The Lawfare Project may file a similar lawsuit against the Flanders legislation early in 2018.

If the legislation is not annulled prior to coming into force in 2019, it could undermine the ability of minority faith communities to practice central tenets of their religions in Belgium, the Lawfare Project stated on Wednesday.

The lawsuit argues that the legislation further violates harmonized European Union law on this issue, including the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, the European Convention on Human Rights, and the Belgian Constitution itself, all of which guarantee freedom of religion.

“This case challenges the law on the basis that it curtails religious freedom,” stated Brooke Goldstein, executive director of The Lawfare Project.

Yohan Benizri, president of the Belgian Federation of Jewish Organizations (CCOJB), which submitted the appeal, said that the ban on kosher meat production “is a violation of the rule of law and of the freedom of religion of Article 10 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union.”

These moves against Jewish ritual slaughtering in Europe in Belgium are the latest in almost 150 years of combat by European countries against Jewish shechita.