The Brussels Regional Parliament on Friday voted against a ban on Jewish Shechita and Muslim Halal slaughter. The vote, 42 to 38, followed the recommendation of a parliamentary committee which, back on June 9, rejected the ban that had been proposed by the Brussels Minister for Animal Welfare Bernard Clerfayt.
In 1970, after decades of strife between French- and Flemish-speaking Belgians, a new constitution turned the country into a federal system, with a central parliament and three separate state parliaments: Flanders, Wallonia, and Brussels. The regional and community parliaments and governments have jurisdiction over transportation, public works, water policy, cultural matters, education, public health, environment, housing, zoning, and economic and industrial policy. Legislative powers in Belgium are divided between the national, the regional, and the community levels.
Early last week, Jean-Claude Van Damme, who has been lending his fame and influence to the animal rights organization GAIA, announced that he was outraged by the result of the committee vote in the Brussels Parliament in favor of slaughtering un-stunned animals. In a video distributed by GAIA, the Hollywood star called on the Brussels parliament to approve the ban on Jewish and Muslim slaughter on Friday, and “put an end to the cruel suffering of animals.”
Kosher slaughter is illegal in Wallonia and Flanders, and local Jews and Muslims must pay for imported meat. The President of the European Convention of Rabbis, Pinchas Goldschmid, said in a statement: “We stand in full agreement with the ruling of the Brussels Parliament, declaring Shechita and Halal to be legal. The bans on non-stunned slaughter enacted in the Belgium regions of Flanders and Wallonia in 2020 prohibited Shechita and Halal, blatantly trampling on the religious freedoms of the Jewish and Muslim communities, hundreds of thousands of Belgium citizens.”
Rabbi Goldschmid suggested that “these unsolicited bans have a dark historical precedent; rather than ushering in a future of increased animal welfare, these alarmingly legislative prohibitions are instead a harsh, destructive step backward. The law should never be used as an unsolicited weapon against religious communities.”
He applauded “the vote of the Brussels regional Parliament on Friday, declaring that these religious methods of slaughter are not illegal thereby restores such religious rights in the country. We pay tribute to Chief Rabbi Guigui and Rabbi Bruno Fiszon for their efforts.”
GAIA has threatened a “state of emergency for thousands of animals,” and its president, Michel Vandenbosch, stated that the scientific evidence about the suffering of un-stunned animals, the high court rulings in Belgium and the EU, and the bans in Wallonia and Flanders offer a “fair balance between religious freedom and the interests of animal welfare.”
But of course, it doesn’t. An animal is considered “traif” if it sustained an injury that would lead to its death within the year, at which point it cannot be given a kosher slaughter. The electric shock it receives would certainly kill it within the year, and so no matter how sharp the kosher slaughter’s knife is.
On Thursday, GAIA suggested that “Jean-Claude Van Damme may be able to push the Brussels parliament to take the most ethically sound, most progressive and most justified decision in the interest of the weakest and most vulnerable party, the animals.”