‘There will be no kosher meat available in Europe’ warns top rabbi after court ruling

Outrage as European Court of Justice decision puts ‘animal welfare above the fundamental right of Freedom of Religion’ 


European Jewish groups have condemned a European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruling released today which upholds a Belgian ban on kosher and halal slaughter methods. 

The court ruled Thursday that authorities can order that animals be stunned before slaughter.

The ruling sets a precedent which could see laws against Jewish ritual slaughter upheld across the European Union. 

Rabbi Menachem Margolin, chairman of the European Jewish Association (EJA), stated that it was a “sad day for European Jewry”, and that the ruling rested on “completely ignoring the fact that kosher slaughter puts the welfare of the animal and minimising its suffering as of paramount importance. 

“What today’s ruling does is put animal welfare above the fundamental right of Freedom of Religion. Simply put, beast takes preference over man,” Rabbi Margolin said. 

He added that his organisation would explore “every avenue and recourse available” to protect Jewish rights in Europe, and warned that soon “there will be no kosher meat available in Europe”. 

Similarly, Chief Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt, president of the Conference of European Rabbis (CER), claimed the judgment “flies in the face of recent statements from the European Institutions that Jewish life is to be treasured and respected.” 

He noted that the bans had already led to shortages of kosher meat in Belgium, and argued that historically “bans on religious slaughter have always been associated with the far-right and population control.” 

Chief Rabbi Goldschmidt continued: “We are told by European leaders that they want Jewish communities to live and be successful in Europe, but they provide no safeguards for our way of life. Europe needs to reflect on the type of continent it wants to be.” 

Bini Guttmann, president of the European Union of Jewish Students, also expressed his shock and alarm at the decision, suggesting it would “make Jewish life in Europe as we know it impossible”. 

He said: “Kosher slaughter is a key component of Judaism, making it possible to prohibit the practice is a clear signal that the fundamental rights of Jews can be curtailed in the EU.”  

The Belgian regions of Flanders and Wallonia passed laws in 2017 prohibiting slaughter without pre-stunning, as is customary in the process of producing kosher and halal meat. 

Belgium’s Constitutional Court sent the lawsuit, filed by the Coordinating Committee of Jewish Organizations in Belgium, to the European Union Court of Justice last year to determine whether the bans were lawful. 

In its ruling, the court said that European regulations do not “preclude member states from imposing an obligation to stun animals prior to killing which also applies in the case of slaughter prescribed by religious rites, provided, however, that, in so doing, the member states respect the fundamental rights enshrined in the charter.” 

It therefore concluded that “the measures contained in the decree allow a fair balance to be struck between the importance attached to animal welfare and the freedom of Jewish and Muslim believers to manifest their religion.” 

The ECJ’s ruling opposes an opinion given by the European advocate-general in September – an unusual occurrence. 

Gerard Hogan had previously stated that EU states “are obliged to respect the deeply held religious beliefs of adherents to the Muslim and Jewish faiths by allowing for the ritual slaughter of animals”.

Shimon Cohen, Shechita UK’s Campaign Director, argued that the ruling would be “very significant to the UK Jewish community, even post-Brexit.”

He said the organisation was “disappointed” with the ruling, and would be looking to “understand the long term implications of the decision.”

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