Jewish community leaders in Europe say the EU is not only outlawing certain methods of kosher and halal slaughter but is also instructing Jews and Muslims as to how to practice their own religions reports JTA.
This was the result of a recent ruling by the European Union’s highest court. It upholds bans in Belgium on manufacturing both kosher and halal meat, outlawing a practice in which livestock is slaughtered without initially being electrically stunned unconscious.
Both Jewish and Muslim lay leaders bypass stunning under similar religious laws that mandate animals to be conscious when they are slaughtered for consumption. Both the court and animal rights activists ruled that the practice is cruel.
However, the December 17 decision by the Court of the European Union takes it a step further as the 11,000-word document recommends that Jews and Muslims should and could find a way to let animals be electrically stunned.
This section of the ruling is already reigniting internal communal debates within both Jewish and Muslim communities amid allegations that the court is weakening Europe’s separation of church and state.
“That part of it is astonishing,” said Shimon Cohen, campaign director for Shechita UK, a London-based organization that lobbies against attempts to ban shechita, or kosher slaughter. A secular court does not have “the authority to tell people if they can practice elements of their faith. I may disagree with some of the restrictions, but not with the mandate. But a secular court has no right to tell me how to practice. That’s gross overreaching.”
Pinchas Goldschmidt, the president of the European Conference of Rabbis, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that for the court “to seek to define shechita is absurd.”
Goldschmidt rejected the court’s ruling that electric stunning is compatible with Judaism. Meat from animals that had were stunned electrically or otherwise, prior to slaughter can’t be considered kosher, he said.
The bans in Belgium are part of a wider conflict across Europe between animal ‘rights’ activists against Jewish and Muslim community representatives over the kosher and halal slaughter techniques.
The ruling denied a petition filed by Jewish and Muslim groups in Belgium, implies that because “electronarcosis” isn’t lethal, religious authorities should be able to implement it within their religious rituals.
Additionally, the ruling stated that since the ban is restricted to parts of Belgium, Muslims and Jews can still obtain a supply of kosher and halal meat, minimizing the encroachment on their freedom of worship.
Cohen rejects these arguments. The science on what causes suffering to an animal be it an electric shock or a sharp, swift knife-cut — is a long way from being settled, Cohen argued, and according to religious interpretations that are beyond the court’s jurisdiction. Regarding the supply argument, he added that kosher meat shortages are already common in Europe today.
Making matters worse, the parliamentary debate did not involve any representatives of the Jewish community but did feature a Muslim veterinarian.
In addition to the court exceeding its purview, Cohen said that the court “lumped Muslim and Jewish customs together.” The two religions have distinct methods for ritual slaughter
“The court’s ruling makes as much sense as moving Shabbat to Sunday because Christians are fine with it,” Cohen said.