Friday, December 18, 2020

European Court Upholds Flemish Restrictions on Halal and Kosher Slaughter

In a case referred to it by Belgium's Constitutional Court, the Court of Justice of the European Union in Centraal Israëlitisch Consistorie van België and Others v. Vlaamse Regering, (CJEU Grand Chamber, Dec. 17, 2020), upheld a decree of the Flemish government requiring kosher and halal slaughter in the country to use a reversible stunning technique that is inconsistent with Jewish and Muslim religious requirements.  The Flemish government contended:

Electronarcosis is a reversible (non-lethal) method of stunning in which the animal, if it has not had its throat cut in the meantime, regains consciousness after a short period and does not feel any negative effects of stunning. If the animal’s throat is cut immediately after stunning, its death will be purely due to bleeding.... [T]he application of reversible, non-lethal stunning during the practice of ritual slaughter constitutes a proportionate measure which respects the spirit of ritual slaughter in the framework of freedom of religion and takes maximum account of the welfare of the animals concerned.

The European Court said in part:

[T]he Charter is a living instrument which must be interpreted in the light of present-day conditions and of the ideas prevailing in democratic States today ... with the result that regard must be had to changes in values and ideas, both in terms of society and legislation, in the Member States. Animal welfare, as a value to which contemporary democratic societies have attached increasing importance for a number of years, may, in the light of changes in society, be taken into account to a greater extent in the context of ritual slaughter and thus help to justify the proportionality of legislation such as that at issue in the main proceedings....

... [T]he measures contained in the decree at issue ... 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 and are, therefore, proportionate.

The Court also issued a press release announcing the decision. Meanwhile, Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs harshly criticized the ruling, saying in part:

Beyond the fact that this decision harms the freedom of worship and religion in Europe, a core value of the EU, it also signals to Jewish communities that they are unwanted in Europe. 

Courthouse News Service reports on the decision.