Flanders’ ban on halal and kosher animal slaughter: a restriction of religious dietary requirements or a necessary decision?

At the start of the year, Belgium’s Flemish region implemented a new law, that bans halal and kosher animal slaughter practices. In Flanders, animals now have to be electronically stunned before they are killed. There are plans for this law to also be introduced in Wallonia – Belgium’s French-speaking region – leaving Brussels the only area in the country to allow halal and kosher slaughter methods.

But both halal and kosher rules say that animals must be in “perfect health” before being killed by one cut to the neck. This causes animals to be unconscious in a few seconds, which many suggest is less inhumane than other methods of animal slaughter.

Since the law has come into force in Flanders, lawsuits have been filed by those who oppose it, who cite religious freedoms; many have argued that it’s antisemitic and Islamophobic.

On the contrary, many animal rights activists support the law, suggesting that animals being killed by a cut to the throat is still inhumane.

So in terms of forming an opinion on this issue, it’s hard to know what to think: it raises animal welfare concerns while also considering people’s religious freedoms. It is one of those areas that, understandably, people feel strongly about for one reason or another.

In my view, the definition of “inhumane” is a significant factor. It is arguably fairly subjective in this situation, with the law’s supporters and opposition both having drawn on the word in their arguments for or against it.

Personally, I have found it difficult to form my own opinion about it, as I understand (and agree!) with viewpoints from both sides of the coin. It is hugely important to respect people’s religious freedoms, but ensuring animal welfare as far as possible is also vital. It’s arguably a case of addressing both, however difficult this may or may not be.

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