Ban on slaughter without stunning doesn’t violate human rights convention, ECHR rules
Bans in Flanders and Wallonia on the ritual slaughter of unanaesthetised animals do not violate the European Convention on Human Rights, the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg ruled on Tuesday.
According to the Court, the Flemish and Walloon authorities have taken a measure that is “justified as a matter of principle” and “could be regarded as proportionate to the aim pursued, namely the protection of animal welfare as an element of ‘public morals’,” it said in a press release.
The court therefore concluded that the Flemish and Walloon decrees do not violate Article 9 on freedom of religion or the non-discrimination principle of Article 14. The Court, which oversees the application of the European Convention on Human Rights, ruled for the first time on the relationship between animal welfare and religious freedom.
"The door is now open for a ban on unanaesthetised slaughter not only in Brussels, but in the whole of Europe"
Several Jewish and Muslim individuals and organisations from Belgium, including the Chief Rabbi of Brussels and the Muslim Executive, had gone to Strasbourg to challenge the decrees. In September 2021, Belgium’s Constitutional Court had already ruled that the bans did not violate the constitution.
Ritual slaughter is common in Muslim and Jewish communities, including for the preparation of food. Religious groups say that both kosher and halal slaughter, when performed correctly, can cause less pain and suffering to animals than industrial slaughter. Animal rights groups, however, argue that the practice causes unnecessary suffering.
Since 2019, Flanders and Wallonia have banned the unanaesthetised slaughter of animals as part of religious rituals, but Brussels allows it. According to Flemish Animal Welfare minister Ben Weyts, of Flemish nationalists N-VA, the court’s ruling means “the door is now open for a ban on unanaesthetised slaughter not only in Brussels, but in the whole of Europe”.
"We are continuing the fight in the Brussels region, which no longer has any serious reason not to introduce a ban"
“We are now reaching out to the religious communities that challenged the ban,” he said. “Let us now definitively turn this page and fight together for more animal welfare.”
Michel Vandenbosch, chair of animal rights organisation Gaia, called it “one of the best days in my 40 years of fighting for animals”. “Since 1995, Gaia has campaigned for a ban on unanaesthetised slaughter,” he said. “We were vindicated by the highest courts. Now we are continuing the fight in the Brussels region, which no longer has any serious reason not to introduce a ban.”
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