Flemish Minister for Animal Welfare Ben Weyts has reversed his position on the issue of Jewish ritual slaughter in Belgium.
The minister advised the European Jewish Association (EJA) this week he intends to “enforce in all aspects” Belgian law facilitating the practice of ritual slaughter. The Brussels-based EJA represents Jewish communities across Europe.
Weyts offered his full apologies in a letter to EJA General Director Rabbi Menachem Margolin Wednesday for the “misunderstanding” which prompted the public backlash to his previous call for a total ban on the practice in Belgium in televised comments.
The minister’s clarifications came following Margolin’s appeal against apparent plans to implement a total ban on the practice of Jewish ritual slaughter, insisting such a move “is against freedom of religion”.
Speaking on Belgian television show ‘De Zevende Dag’ (VRT) in late September, Weyts had declared that he would actively pursue a total ban on the practice of animal slaughter without pre-stunning.
If successful, Weyt’s attack on shechita, as the practice is called in Hebrew, would have been implemented by 2015. Margolin emphasised that the Jewish practice of shechita is “the most humane method of slaughter” as it ensures the welfare of the animal not only at the time of slaughter, but also concerns itself with “the conditions in which animals are raised before their slaughter.”
“After reading your letter, I regret that apparently my declarations regarding the slaughter of animals without prior stunning as prescribed by certain religious rites have been misunderstood,” the minister wrote.
“As you have indicated, European regulation no. 1099/2009, stipulates that prior stunning of animals is not required in case of slaughter prescribed by religious rites. From now on this regulation will be enforced in all its aspects.”
Margolin thanked Weyts for his clarification, adding, ” I am very happy that we were able to come to an understanding about the importance of kosher slaughtering for Jews, not only in Belgium, but all over Europe.”
The European Jewish Association has previously successfully campaigned against legislation to restrict the practice of ritual slaughter in Poland, in addition to appealing against similar legislation in Denmark, as well as legislation against male circumcision in Germany.