Brussels’ court of first instance has turned to the European Court of Justice in a case about the ritual slaughter of animals outside licensed slaughterhouses.
Some European animal rights campaigners say that the Islamic halal and Jewish kosher rules for ritual slaughter are less humane than standard European practice, because they ban the practice of stunning animals before they are killed .
Like kosher slaughter, the halal rite requires the butcher to kill the animal by swiftly slitting its throat. Stunning it first to lessen its pain, as recommended in a European Union directive, is not allowed.
European rules state that slaughtering animals without stunning them – as happens in the halal and kosher traditions – can only be carried out by licensed slaughterhouses. The Brussels court is questioning whether this is in breach of the principle of freedom of religion, as part of a court case brought by a group of Muslim organizations.
Last year, the Belgian Council of Theologians issued an order to the local Muslim community that the obligation to slaughter an animal during the feast of Eid Al-Adha was suspended for a year, as slaughterhouse capacity was much smaller than demand.
The Brussels court has yet to offer its judgment and has requested an opinion from the ECJ on the question of religious freedom. However, it has shown some sympathy to the applicants’ case.
The judgment would clash with EU law, which has supremacy, so the Brussels court has sought a ruling from Luxembourg. Only if those justices agree would a change have to be made. That decision could take a year, with Eid Al-Adha due to take place in September, The New Europe reported.