Belgian law bans kosher slaughter, rabbis promise to fight

Center of European Rabbis says its fight against the ‘shechita’ ban will continue even after the law takes effect on Tuesday.

By David Jablinowitz, World Israel News

A ban on kosher and halal slaughter is to go into effect in northern Belgium on Tuesday.

Effective January 1, shechita (Jewish slaughter) is to be outlawed in the Flanders region of Belgium. The law, passed in June 2017, requires that all animals be stunned prior to slaughter, which is forbidden under Jewish law.

This means there will be no kosher meat available to observant Jews in Flanders, including Antwerp, where at least 60 percent of the country’s Jewish community is said to reside.

A second region in Belgium, Wallonia, passed a similar law in 2017. That legislation is slated to take effect in August 2019.

The ban on halal slaughter as well has resulted in cooperation on the part of at least some leaders in the Jewish and Islamic communities to wage this battle together.

Rabbi Menachem Margolin, chairman of the Center of European Rabbis, issued a statement vowing to continue the fight. “The Jewish community in Belgium has issued a petition to the Constitutional Court of Belgium arguing that the parliament’s decision is unconstitutional in its violation of freedom of religion. It is very regrettable but we will continue to fight,” he said.

In the meantime, Margolin pledged to help in the transport of meats from countries “where there is complete freedom of religion and expression.”

While opponents of Jewish slaughter argue that it is not humane, the argument has been countered by the likes of Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, former Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth.

In an address to the British House of Lords in January 2014, he said: “Shechita itself, the act of animal killing, is designed to minimize animal pain. The animal must be killed by a single cut with an instrument of surgical sharpness, and in the absence of anything that might impede its smooth and swift motion. The cut achieves three things: it stuns, kills and exsanguinates in a single act. We believe that this is the most humane, or a most humane method of animal slaughter.”

Rabbi Margolin says that gains have been made in the “public, political, and legal fights” that have been waged in various European countries and that “we will continue to do it in Belgium and any other European country which stands in the way of the Jews to live and flourish.”