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June 29, 2017 10:54 am

Belgian Regional Parliament Passes Law Banning Kosher Slaughter

avatar by Ben Cohen

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The parliament building in the Belgian region of Flanders. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

The parliament in Flanders, the predominantly Flemish-speaking province of Belgium, voted by a near-unanimous majority to ban the ritual slaughter of animals on Wednesday.

Only one deputy in the regional parliament voted against the measure, which will require animals slaughtered for human consumption to be stunned first — a rule that violates the religious laws for preparing both kosher and halal meat products.

The vote comes one month after the same measure was passed by the parliament in Wallonia, the country’s French-speaking region. Reacting to that vote, Philippe Markiewicz, president of the Consistoire organization of Belgian Jewry, reminded legislators that the “last assault on ritual slaughter was in October 1940 under the Nazi occupation, because they knew how important it was for Jews.”

Following the vote in Flanders, Chief Rabbi of Moscow Pinchas Goldschmidt — the president of the Conference of European Rabbis — declared: “The news that the Flanders region of Belgium has joined Wallonia in passing a legislation banning religious slaughter is a clear attack on religious practices and a worrying omen for the future of religious rites across Europe. We cannot tolerate bans on religious practices. Leaders across Europe must protest against the ban and work to protect our religious freedoms.”

Belgium is one of several countries where Jewish and Muslim ritual slaughter is currently prohibited. Others include Switzerland, Norway and New Zealand.

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  • dfwh0ppy

    Boycot Belgium!

  • Stephanie Corkran

    I am intensely interested in the pain and suffering of animals at slaughter houses – I happen to be vegan because I cannot trust that what I would be purchasing/consuming is humanely sourced. But I understand that not all humans are ready to take that leap yet to a plant based diet – whether for planet or animals. I also understand that reputable kosher slaughter on a small scale (just as family subsistence hunting and small family farms) minimize greatly the suffering of animals in food production. It just happens to be on this overpopulated planet with the amount of meat consumed by humans that it is becoming untenable to supply humane meat (even major suppliers of kosher beef in South America were recently exposed as being quite inhumane). My reference to human sacrifice was to point out that religion has changed in practice and theory throughout time – for instance most do not embrace the Old Testament today – what used to seem ethical or acceptable is no longer. And for some of us (I happen to be a biological scientist) it is not a stretch at all to understand that human suffering and non-human suffering are the same – what we do to them we do to ourselves. I would rather be unconscious before having my throat slit for sure. The main point I was trying to make is that the laws of the state are not necessarily targeted to persecute religious persons – the laws are changing in response to increased knowledge and compassion.

  • pamelalevene

    I believe that stunning is a very hit and miss affair that can in fact cause terrible suffering to an animal. Ironic that that “modern” method is to be preferred over the ancient Jewish method, perfected over almost three thousand years and designed to cause the animal the least suffering possible given that man is naturally a hunter and is therefore a carnivore. (Note that Judaism does not allow hunting!) I am also quite sure that the men who work in the abattoirs and handle the stun gun are not trained for years the way the religious and highly qualified Shochat is!

  • elihustone

    The Jewish laws concerning the slaughter of animals are considered a “chok” (supra-rational) so searching for “reasons” is not necessarily reasonable 😉 However, many commentators – includig the sefer Hachinukh make the point specifically that Jewish slaughter is meant to be a human method of dispatch. Consider the following: An animal could have been drugged or stupified in ancient times – as were human beings before execution for capital offenses. So, it is not necessarily true that the practice of stunning an animal was “not thought of” long ago. The insistence on incredible sharpness and smoothness required of the knife used in Jewish slaughter and the location of the cut leads to very rapid blood loss to the animal’s brain rendering it nearly immediately unconscious. Before the modern invention of “hoist and shackle” slaughter the shochet (the slaughterer) basically had to look a fully conscious animal in the eye when slaughtering it. Recall that those allowed to slaughter animals per Jewish ritual law underwent particularly rigorous training and were, at least theoretically, among the most educated and sensitive class. Recall, too, that Jewish law expressly forbids causing unecessary pain to any mammal. In ancient times Jews also ate much less meat than in modern times because
    consumption of meat was almost always tied to ritual sacrafice, rather
    than just the desire to feast. The desensitization toward animals is actually a result of modern methods of slaughter – not the requirements of Jewish ritual slaughter. The stunning of animals is hardly a painless process and one can argue that it actually lends to the desenstitizing of human beings to animal suffering. This just provides a framework for future study, that may be useful – I can provide no definitve answer to your question.

  • Jack Bidnik

    I cannot imagine anything more damaging to the sensory areas of the brain than stunning. That the animal becomes unconscious rapidly does not save it from the pain and terror that scrambling its brain must impose. There is also no scientific way to measure the pain, as any EEG methods would , of course be overwhelmed by the shock of stunning. So compare the two possible EEG signals, the electric stunning shock, to any pain signal ever measured, and you would see that the former is so much more powerful, and therefore more painful.

  • abeleehane

    I don’t see this as an anti-Jewish measure but as overzealous concern for animal rights since halal slaughter is also included.
    Indeed animals suffer less when stunned before the final cut …but they all end up dead for humans to consume. May be doing away with animal slaughter all together might be a better idea. Just sayin’ .

    • Pebbleson

      My understanding is that stunning may not work the first time around, if the goad is misapplied as it often can be by the as usual callous and inadequately trained and/or supervised abattoir slaughterers. The result is much more pain for the terrified animals, not less. The solution is close supervision by conscientious authorities having clear moral commitments, and slaughterers who are highly trained and have similarly rigourous moral standards — such as is already mandatory in kosher slaughter. The claims that kosher slaughter is more painful than stunning ring hollow.

  • Hard Little Machine

    Watching Belgium implode into sharia inspired genocide will be entertaining