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Sheep to be transported to the slaughterhouse. Photo credit: Jo-Anne McArthur

European Court of Justice allows EU states to ban ritual animal slaughter

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) has ruled that the EU states should be allowed to prohibit the slaughter of animals.

Published: December 19, 2020, 11:15 am

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    According to the judges, the provision does not fundamentally violate the right to religious freedom. In addition to exemptions, the court granted the states concerned a prerogative that animals should be stunned.

    The background was a legal dispute which had originated in Flanders. In 2017, the slaughter of animals without stunning was banned there for reasons of animal welfare. Muslim and Jewish associations complained about it and cited religious regulations. Only with this type of slaughter can the meat be produced which is “halal” or “kosher” they argued. When the animal is thus slaughtered, the esophagus, windpipe and carotid artery are cut through and it bleeds out.

    The decision of the ECJ triggered criticism from representatives of both religions. According to the dpa news agency, the President of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, Josef Schuster, spoke of an “attack on religious freedom”. The President of the European Union of Jewish Students, Bini Guttmann, expressed the fear that a ban on slaughter “could make Jewish life as we know it impossible in the long term”.

    The chairman of the Central Council of Muslims in Germany, Aiman ​​Mazyek, said courts should not decide what is possible as part of a religious rite. He also pointed out that because of the existing regulations, slaughtering outside of slaughterhouses is more frequent.

    The judge’s verdict received approval from animal welfare organizations. The German Animal Welfare Association praised the judgment for enabling ways to reconcile the welfare of animals and freedom of religion. There are certain types of stunning that are accepted by Muslims when slaughtering.

    In Germany, the slaughter of warm-blooded animals without prior stunning is prohibited. However, there are exceptions. In August 2019, the Lower Saxony CDU suggested a general ban on this practice. The state was then attacked by the National Association of Jewish Communities. This was an “affront” they said and accused the Christian Democrats of taking up a topic that had previously only served the AfD.

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