The Court of Justice of the European Union upheld the Belgian kosher slaughter ban
On 17 December 2020, the Court of Justice of the European Union upheld a decree of the Flemish Region (Belgium) of 7 July 2017 which prohibits animals from being slaughtered without prior stunning, including in the case of slaughter prescribed by a religious rite (such as the Kosher Shechita).
The Court did not adopt the opinion of the Advocate General who concluded – as was argued by the IJL in its amicus curiae brief – that Member States are not permitted to adopt rules which provide for a prohibition on the slaughter of animals without stunning (including reversible stunning) if they also apply to slaughter carried out in the context of a religious rite.
While the Court found that the stunning requirement does entail a limitation on the freedom to manifest religion, it is nevertheless permissible, inter alia, since it is limited to one aspect of the specific ritual act of slaughter, and that act of slaughter is not, by contrast, prohibited as such. In this regard, the Court failed to recognize that the prohibition of one aspect of the ritual act, necessarily results with the prohibition of the entire act.
In parallel, the Court has found that the fact that the regulation authorizes Member States to take measures such as compulsory stunning in the context of ritual slaughter, but contains no similar provision governing the killing of animals in the context of hunting and recreational fishing activities or during cultural or sporting events, is not contrary to the principles of equality and non-discrimination.
The judgment of the Court is disturbing, since it legitimatizes the imposition of significant limitations on the freedom of Belgian Jews to manifest religion, by upholding a prohibition on a religious rite, which was observed by Belgian Jews for hundreds of years.
The IJL will continue its legal efforts on these issues, in support of the right of Jews throughout Europe to manifest religion, including in the context of Kosher Shechita.
Click here to read the Judgment of the Court.
Click here of IJL’s Amicus Curie.