Gerard Hogan, an Irish lawyer currently serving as an Advocate General of the European Court of Justice, on Thursday declared that the EU court must revoke a Belgian law which prohibits killing animals by any means other than stunning, which effectively renders kosher and halal slaughtering illegal.
According to Reuters, Hogan said the European Union’s legal system respects freedom of religion which is expressed in religious practices and observance, “despite avoidable suffering caused to animals.”
Clearly, the jurist did not go as far as to legitimize the Jewish and Muslim methods of killing animals per se, suggesting instead the rights of the slaughtered animals are superseded by the religious rights of European citizens.
Representatives of the Belgian group Global Action in the Interest of Animals (GAIA) who attended the court hearing on Thursday, told Reuters Hogan’s opinion would present the EU judges with the difficult choice of killing not just the Belgian anti-kosher slaughtering law but also similar legislation in Denmark, Finland, Sweden and Slovenia.
The group said on Facebook Thursday morning: “The Opinion of Advocate General Hogan was read today in the great hall of the Court of Justice in Luxembourg. Michel Vandenbosch and GAIA’s lawyer Anthony Godfroid were present. The Advocate General advises the Court of Justice in a non-binding opinion that it is impossible in the European Union to impose an anesthetic obligation on animals slaughtered in a slaughterhouse according to a religious rite. In other words: according to him, slaughter is allowed without stunning in a slaughterhouse. We are not giving up. Hopefully you will continue to support us.”
Brooke Goldstein, Executive Director of the Lawfare Project issued the following statement: “Religious slaughter is a central tenet of many religions, including Judaism and Islam. I am pleased the AG recognized that banning this practice would be an obvious violation of Belgian citizens’ rights to practice their religions freely. It is encouraging to see the AG follow the rule of law in this instance. I am hopeful the European Court of Justice will do likewise.”
Yohan Benizri, President of the Belgian Federation of Jewish Organizations and Vice President of the European Jewish Congress and the World Jewish Congress, said: “The European Union cannot stand to allow the fundamental right of religious freedom to fall by the wayside. For democracy to thrive, the rights of all minority groups – including religious minorities – must be upheld and protected. I am glad the AG endorsed this notion and fully expect the European Court of Justice to follow suit.”