Belgium: Jewish community files lawsuit over kosher slaughter ban

The Belgian Jewish community is continuing to fight a kosher slaughter ban it says violates religious freedom laws.

By: Aryeh Savir, World Israel News

The Belgian Jewish Community on Tuesday filed a lawsuit challenging legislation passed last year by the parliament in Flanders banning the kosher slaughter of animals.

The lawsuit was submitted by the Belgian Federation of Jewish Organizations (CCOJB), the Belgian section of the European Jewish Congress (EJC) and the World Jewish Congress (WJC), and follows a case submitted last November against similar legislation passed by the parliament of the Walloon region.

The lawsuit is backed by the Lawfare Project, a legal think tank and civil rights litigation fund, which files legal cases against anti-Semitic discrimination around the world.

The legislation bans the slaughter of unstunned animals, which is a requirement for both kosher and Muslim halal slaughter.

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

If the legislation is not annulled before coming into force in 2019 it would ban the production of kosher and halal meat in Belgium.

The lawsuit argues that the legislation violates European Union (EU) law, 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.

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has previously described kosher slaughter as “an essential aspect of practice of the Jewish religion.”

The Walloon region passed legislation banning kosher and traditional halal methods of slaughter in May. Flanders, where half of Belgium’s Jews live and where the majority of Belgium’s kosher facilities provide meat for Jewish communities in Belgium and beyond, followed suit in July.

In addition to the CCOJB and the Lawfare Project’s previous lawsuit against the Walloon legislation, the Coordinating Council of Islamic Institutions in Belgium also filed a lawsuit alleging that this is an attack on religious freedom.

Brooke Goldstein, Executive Director of the Lawfare Project, which is supporting the lawsuit, said that the “lawsuit seeks to uphold religious freedom in Belgium.”

Yohan Benizri, the President of the Belgian Federation of Jewish Organizations (CCOJB), who submitted the appeal, stated that “the right to freely practice your faith is a principal in the separation of Church and State. This lawsuit alleges that the Belgium legislation banning kosher slaughter is a violation of that principle.”