In response to the Sept 30th ruling of the Constitutional Court of Belgium, allowing for laws, passed in the regions of Flanders and Wallonia, that contain no religious exemptions but that bar the slaughter of animals without prior stunning – stunning that violates ritual slaughtering rules in both Jewish laws of kashrut and (ritual slaughtering) and Muslim laws of halal, the World Union for Progressive Judaism and the European Union of Progressive Judaism, issue the following statement:
These laws and this Constitutional Court decision are clear discriminatory actions that deleteriously affect many Jewish and Muslim citizens of Belgium and make more challenging the continuation of Jewish community life in Europe, by making it increasingly difficult to obtain ritually slaughtered meat.
Yet, in upholding an exemption in these laws from the stunning requirement for animals killed by hunting, based on cultural reasons, but denying a similar exemption based on religious reasons that are rooted in millennia-old religious rules and practices, this decision dramatizes the discriminatory impact of this ruling.
The Progressive Jewish Movement, which does not require kashrut and leaves to individual Jews the level of kashrut that they will observe, nonetheless recognizes that for traditional Jewish communities and many Jews from all streams of Judaism, the right to partake of ritually slaughtered animals is vital to their religious conscience and way of life. At the same time, the Bible contains numerous laws mitigating cruelty to animals, and we continue to urge halachic (Jewish legal) scholars in all streams to seek ways to further reconcile shechita (Jewish slaughtering) laws with such values.
The Belgium Constitutional Court held that restrictions on ritual slaughter are permissible – not that they are required. We urge the Belgium government to act to reverse these regional laws and urge the Brussels-Capital region, which still maintains an exemption for ritual slaughter, to maintain that exemption.