Belgium’s ban on kosher slaughter is set to be tested in the European Union’s highest court after a judge delayed a decision on the legality of restrictions in Flanders and Wallonia.
Belgium’s Constitutional Court ruled that a request to annul the ban must first be referred to the European Court of Justice to check check the legality of the bans on religious slaughter passed by the parliaments of Flanders and Wallonia.
Following the passing of the discriminatory legislation, the Coordinating Committee of Jewish Organizations in Belgium (CCOJB), the country’s EJC affiliate, filed a lawsuit against the ban with support from The Lawfare Project, a legal think tank and litigation fund that files legal cases against anti-Jewish discrimination around the world.
The Court decided to refer the question whether the bans on religious slaughter are compatible with European law to the European Court of Justice. European legislation allows for religious slaughter as an exception to the rule of prior stunning, provided that religious slaughter is operated in an approved slaughterhouse.
The CCOJB and Lawfare Project’s lawsuit argued that the ban violates the religious freedoms guaranteed in the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union. The European Court of Human Rights has previously described kosher slaughter as “an essential aspect of practice of the Jewish religion.”
CCOJB and The Lawfare Project maintain that while the ban was implemented with the stated purpose of animal welfare, that argument is flawed because animal welfare has always been central to the laws of kosher practice.
Yohan Benizri, president of the CCOJB, said:“I regret that the Constitutional Court has not already annulled these decrees on the basis of our fundamental principles, but I note that our arguments have all the same carried through. No one can say that this law was above suspicion. On the contrary, it raises a serious question of compatibility with European law. The battle will continue in Luxembourg.”
Brooke Goldstein, the Executive Director of The Lawfare Project, which supported the lawsuit said:“It is disappointing that the Constitutional Court hasn’t put a stop to this assault on religious freedom in Belgium. The ban on religious slaughter is a shameful and vindictive act towards minority communities. If allowed to stand it has appalling implications for Jewish communities in Belgium and beyond. We will continue to fight this bigotry and discrimination in the European courts. We will never let attacks on the rights of Jews and other minorities to practice their religion go unchallenged.”