European Commission Vice President pledges to defend religious freedom after vote to ban shechita

Religious slaughter ‘should never be a problem in any society’, says Frans Timmermans


The most senior Vice President of the European Commission has said that shechita "should never be a problem in any society", just a few days after a region of Belgium voted to ban the method of religious slaughter.

Frans Timmermans, whose institution is responsible for processing and implementing EU laws, made the comments in a speech to the Conference of European Rabbis on Tuesday night. 

On Friday, the environmental committee in the parliament of the Walloon region of Belgium unanimously passed a motion to ban both shechita and halal methods of religious slaughter. If passed by the full regional parliament, it will come into effect in September 2019.

However, Mr Timmermans told the crowd at a dinner in Amsterdam celebrating the CER's 60th anniversary that "we at the European Commission, and I personally", would defend "freedom of religion and religious practices.

"If religious slaughter is done according to the rules, by people who are trained and certified, that should never be a problem in any society", he said, adding that he felt similarly about circumcision.

Mr Timmermans was in part responding to a speech given minutes earlier at the dinner by Rabbi Albert Guigui, chief rabbi of Brussels, who called upon the EU bureaucrat to "join us as our friend and ally in this fight for religious freedom".

In his own speech to the conference, Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt, president of the CER and chief rabbi of Moscow, described the Walloon parliament's move as "a position that not only disregards the ample body of scientific evidence that supports shechita as a humane method of slaughter, but also disregards the simple fact that the shechita process conforms with all the norms of animal welfare as well as the European definition of stunning".

Rabbi Goldschmidt also identified "a prominent political party in Norway, a member of the ruling coalition, which seeks to ban circumcision", describing the policy moves in the two countries as "attacks on faith". Norway is not an EU member country.

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