Thursday, Apr 18, 2024

Highest EU Court Upholds Belgian Ban Against Shechitah

 

Ruling Elevates ‘Animal Welfare’ Over Freedom of Religion

European Jewish leaders have sharply criticized a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights (EHCR), which upheld a ban on kosher slaughter in Belgium, slamming it as a significant setback for religious freedom across Europe.

Dismissing legal and humanitarian appeals by Belgium’s Jewish community and Jewish leaders worldwide, the seven-judge panel in the Strasbourg court—the EU’s highest judicial body– invoked “the protection of animal welfare” as “an ethical value” that supersedes the Jewish and Muslim religious mandates.

The judges confirmed the ban already in place in Belgium that insists that animals be “stunned” prior to slaughter, regardless of Jewish law and Islamic practice that forbid it.

Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt, President of the Conference of European Rabbis and Russia’s chief rabbi, called the ruling “a black day for Europe, when fundamental religious rights are no longer respected.”

“The court’s decision to enforce the ban on ritual slaughter in the Flanders and Wallonia regions of Belgium will be felt by Jewish communities across the continent,” Rabbi Goldschmidt said. “The bans have already had a devastating impact on the Belgian Jewish community, causing supply shortages. And we are all very aware of the precedent this sets in challenging our rights to practice our religion.”

Belgium is home to some 500,000 Muslims and 30,000 Jews. Those who want to observe shechitah and Muslim ‘halal’ must now obtain meat from abroad.

“This distorted verdict implies that the rights of citizens to freedom of religion and worship are of lower importance than the “rights” of animals,” said Rabbi Menachem Margolin, chairman of the Brussels-based European Jewish Association. He warned that the restrictions on Jews practicing their faith will lead to “serious damage to the fabric of life throughout the continent.”

 

Fearing A Domino Effect

By upholding the Belgian ban, the EU Court of Human Rights has effectively signaled other states within the European Union that they can implement their own laws prohibiting kosher slaughter for Jews and halal slaughter for Muslims, without fear of religious discrimination lawsuits.

The threat of legal consequences has until now acted as a brake on the anti-shechitah movement. But the EUHR ruling has removed that barrier, setting the stage in an expected domino effect for a wave of copycat restrictions on ritual slaughter by European governments.

“We are already seeing attempts across Europe to follow this Belgian ban, now sadly legitimized by the ECHR,” Dr. Ariel Muzicant, president of the European Jewish Congress, said in a statement.

The bans, imposed in the two regions several years ago, were the result of a long-running campaign by animal welfare activists. But they also raised fears among Muslim and Jewish community groups that they were “a cover for nationalist politicians to foster anti-immigrant sentiment,” reported Politico.

Ben Weyts, the Flemish minister responsible for animal welfare, was the first to propose the idea of a ban and expressed satisfaction with the verdict. “Now the door is open for a ban on ritual slaughter not only in Brussels but in the whole of Europe,” Weyts, of the far-right New Flemish Alliance, gloated in a television interview.

Yohan Benizri, president of the Belgian Federation of Jewish Organizations that opposed the slaughter ban, said he was “appalled” by the ruling. “This is the first time that the ECHR decides that protection of animal welfare is a matter of public morals that can trump the rights of minorities,” Benizri told Politico.

 

Hostility To Shechitah Deeply Rooted in European History

The hostility to shechitah endorsed by the Strasbourg court hardly comes as a shock; that animus has underpinned Belgian society for generations, deeply rooted in a legacy of Jew-hatred that has flourished throughout European history.

Blood libels across the ages have been fueled by malicious portrayals of shechitah as barbaric and cruel. Grotesque carvings on countless medieval church facades depicting Jews in obscene acts with pigs, on display to this very day, continue the tradition of mocking Jewish dietary restrictions.

Several European countries in the 19th and 20th Centuries oppressed their Jewish populations with bans against shechitah. Switzerland did so in 1893 to stop Jews fleeing pogroms from entering their country. Poland enacted a similar ban in 1936, Sweden in 1937.

Germany passed anti-shechitah laws three months after the Nazis came to power in 1933, citing cruelty to animals, and maligning kosher slaughter as a Jewish celebration of animal suffering. One of the first acts of the Nazi regime, the laws banning shechitah were aimed at making Germany unlivable for Jews, forcing them to emigrate.

Legislation prohibiting shechitah often follows the Nazi model, masquerading under the banner of animal welfare, and fueled by the canard that kosher slaughter inflicts undue suffering on animals. This misconception has persisted through generations and continues to resonate in various parts of the world.

In 2009, bowing to pressure from liberals and parties hostile to Jews and Muslims, the EU Council implemented the pre-slaughter stunning law. Following outcries from religious groups, the law made allowances for member States to provide exemptions to accommodate ritual slaughter by Jews and Muslims.

A number of countries including France, Germany, Luxembourg, Cyprus and Spain make use of that exemption. Other European countries refuse to grant any exemptions from the stunning law. These include Sweden, Norway, Iceland, Denmark, Cyprus, Spain, Slovenia, and now Belgium.

 

Five Years of Court Battles   

The Strasbourg court’s ruling marked the culmination of legal battles waged by Jewish and Muslim groups, together with seven advocacy groups, against bans enacted in 2017 and 2018 in Flanders and Wallonia against shechitah and Islamic ritual slaughter.

The bans were pushed through the Belgium parliament by an alliance of anti-shechitah forces, animal rights groups and anti-Muslim politicians.

The litigants first brought a religious discrimination lawsuit in a Belgium court, then at the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg in 2020, and finally the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.

Their appeals argued that the laws violate guarantees of religious freedom enshrined in EU law; in the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union; the European Convention on Human Rights; and the Belgian Constitution itself.

The Strasbourg court dismissed their arguments, stating that animal welfare was a component of “public morals” and carried significant weight in modern-day democracies.

Critics have drawn attention to Articles 9 and 14 under the European Convention of Human Rights, formulated in 1953, which protects the political and civil rights of Europeans. Its provisions guarantee freedom of thought, conscience and religion.

Muzicant said the Strasbourg court, in upholding the anti-shechitah law, “had violated the very charter” from which it draws its authority.

“We call on the European Commission and European Parliament to enact legislation which truly protects these fundamental rights and to give real meaning to their long-stated claims that they foster Jewish life in Europe,” Muzicant affirmed on the EJC website. “Jewish communities in Europe, now more than ever, need the protection of national governments and pan-European organizations to ensure that thousands of years of Jewish life on this continent do not come to an abrupt end.”

“Restrictions on fundamental aspects of Jewish religious freedom of expression, coupled with a background of massive increases in anti-Semitic attacks on Jewish communities, lead us to seriously consider whether Jews have a future in Europe,” the EJC representative said.

 

The EU Lowers Its Mask

Commenting on the Strasbourg court ruling upholding Belgium’s anti-shechitah ban, noted British political commentator Melanie Philips mocked the EU for its hypocrisy.

“The European Union likes to pose as the embodiment of tolerance, freedom and all civilized values. Now it has ripped off its own disguise to reveal something rather more ugly,” she wrote in the Jewish Star.

“The idea that stunning is humane is laughable,” Philips elaborated. “It’s often ineffective, causing the animal to be subjected to this assault more than once before it eventually loses consciousness. And even with prior stunning, meat processing plants in Europe are often inhumane places where livestock are factory farmed, pumped full of chemicals and industrially killed.”

So if the requirement for stunning actually has little to do with animal welfare, what’s the real driving force behind it?

At its core, writes Phillips, the law reflects a switch in priorities; animals being given priority over basic human rights, with a corresponding rise in ignorance and hypocrisy over what actually constitutes animal welfare.

“That moral confusion is one of the outcomes of the dogma of secularism, as well as the hostility to religion upon which the EU itself is based,” writes the author. Another key factor contributing to Western decay is its “moral and cultural relativism,” which preaches there are no absolute values.

“All of these [dark forces] have propelled the rise of paganism and the veneration of the animal at the expense of humanity.”

 

Pitfalls of Stunning an Animal

The practice of “stunning” refers to the methods of rendering an animal or bird unconscious prior to slaughter.

It was originally developed to facilitate the killing of large numbers of animals at once, in factory-like conditions. The main stunning method used for slaughtering cattle and sheep is by captive bolt gun, in which a steel bolt is shot into the skull at the front of the animal’s brain, details the National Institute  Health.

Another method is by electric shock, whereby electrodes are clamped to the animal’s head and heart, electrocuting it.

These methods are contrary to Jewish law which stipulates that an animal intended for food must be healthy and uninjured at the time of shechitah. Stunning injures and sometimes kills the animal, in either case rendering it forbidden for Jews to eat.

Apart from the halachic prohibition, there are other objections to stunning. Despite the rhetoric from animal rights activists, there is no conclusive evidence that stunning an animal renders it insensible to pain, experts say.

Some scientists claim that the animal is often only paralyzed—not fully sedated—and thus prevented only from displaying its pain.

In addition, when the captive bolt method fails, as happens not infrequently, it inflicts considerable suffering and distress on the animal. The conscious animal is left in acute pain as the captive bolt gun is reloaded and reapplied, or the electrical tongs reapplied to re-stun it.

According to Britain’s Royal Society for the Protection of Animals (RSPCA), stunning is done differently for poultry. “Birds are hung upside down by their legs on metal shackles along a moving conveyor belt,” the RSPCA details.

“They move along the production line to a stunning water bath; when the bird’s head makes contact with the water, an electrical circuit between the water bath and shackle is completed, which stuns the bird. The conveyor belt then moves the birds to a mechanical neck cutter, which cuts the major blood vessels in the neck.”

Shechitah avoids all the technical risks and humanitarian pitfalls of stunning. Yet, in one of the supreme ironies of this world, despite the gruesome, torturous nature of non-kosher slaughter, it is shechitah with its meticulous laws aimed at minimizing animal suffering that is being painted as barbaric and cruel.

*****

Why Isn’t Stunning Required for Animals Killed in Belgian Sporting Events? 

One of the EJC’s earliest legal appeals drew attention to the discriminatory nature of the Belgian anti-shechitah legislation, noting that hunting and killing animals in sporting events are not subject to any of the “humane” regulations that have been imposed on ritual slaughter.

On the contrary, the laws governing the popular activity of game-hunting in Belgium, whether for recreation of food consumption, make no reference whatever to the welfare of animals. The law’s concern instead is over environmental protections.

As a feature article in Flanders Today makes clear, the government’s aims in regulating hunting are purely environmental; to ensure that the region’s wildlife supply is not significantly reduced and that no damage is done to the land.

The article goes on to enthuse about the opportunities for hunting wild game in Belgian resort areas. “Hunting wild game in the winter is a hit among hunters, butchers and consumers,” the article begins, going on to list “deer, wild boar, partridge, ducks and pheasant” as “huntable animals.”

The Jewish community’s appeal challenged the double standard inherent in these hunting laws. It argued that since the law in Belgium permits the hunting and killing of animals at “cultural or sporting events” without prior stunning, how can the same government impose “stunning” requirements on ritual slaughter?

The court’s response exposed its show of caring about animal welfare as empty posturing.

“Cultural and sporting events result at most in a marginal production of meat which is not economically significant,” the court said. “Consequently, such events cannot reasonably be understood as a food production activity, which justifies their being treated differently from slaughtering.”

What does that gibberish mean? What does food production have to do with the obligation to spare an animal from undue suffering?

What the court seemed to be saying was that imposing humanitarian restrictions on game-hunting will make no economic dent on Jewish or Muslim meat-production industries (and by association, on Jewish or Muslim immigration), so why make a fuss over whether hunting game is done humanely?

In other words, hunt and kill for sport however you please, gentlemen, no stunning necessary, because we don’t really care about animals. That was never the point.

*****

Shocking Scenarios of Animals ‘Rights’ Superseding Human Life

“The protection of nature is gradually taking ideological precedence not only over the right to exercise one’s religion but also over the well-being of humans,” Prof. Eric Mechoulan who teaches in Paris, attested in Mosaic Magazine.

The writer describes a trip he took to Denmark a number of years ago, when he was confronted with a real-life scenario in which obsession over animal welfare trumped concern for the health and well-being of thousands of people.

The writer recalls during his trip being “trapped for six hours in a humongous traffic jam on the highway between Copenhagen and the island of Funen.”

“A truck carrying pigs had overturned and the animals had wandered into a field adjacent to a bridge pier,” he recalled “Not only did a crane have to be brought in to get the animals back into their truck, but “a veterinarian had to be called in to catch and kill the injured pigs in the middle of the countryside, as Danish law prohibits the transport of suffering animals.”

“It took [the veterinarian] a long time,” the author writes. “For this reason, a quarter of the country was blocked and tens of thousands of humans, women and children, old and sick, lacking water and washroom facilities, stayed for hours under the scorching sun.”

“The nature-worshippers in Europe wear the mask of progressive ecology and behind it lurks anti-speciesism,” the author scoffs. Anti-speciesism is an atheistic movement, rooted in the 70’s that claims that no species, including the human species, is more important than any other.

Animal Rights Activists Fight Municipal Orders to Kill Marauding Bears

In some parts of the world where sanity still rules, multiple sightings of a bear in populated areas where fatal bear attacks have taken place would naturally spur efforts to kill the animal as a safety precaution.

However, in regions were animal and environmentalists equate animal rights with those of human beings, threats to public safety are not considered valid grounds to end the life of suspected killer bear.

An incident unfolded early this month in Torentino, a northern province in Italy, that highlighted this unhinged mentality. A bear, identified by its collar and ear markings as M90, was sighted on 12 occasions “in residential areas or in the immediate vicinity of permanent dwellings.”

After Bear M90 reportedly stalked people on numerous occasions, terrifying them, he was deemed a danger to public security, tracked to its lair in the forest and killed, the Guardian reported.

Animal and environmental activists were incensed, slamming the action as “shortsighted and hostile to animals” and accusing the municipality of not “protecting biodiversity,” according to the article. The animal-loving activists went on to rally for the welfare of the brown bears in the provincial capital, Trento.

In other headlines from Italy, even after a hiker was fatally mauled by a bear last year in the Italian village of Caldes, and the same bear had previously attacked a father and a son, the order to kill the deadly animal was cancelled by an administrative court after intense lobbying by animal activists, reported the Guardian.

Only after intense counter pressure was brought to bear by influential parties was the order renewed and carried out.

Isolated incidents in Denmark and Italy? Or episodes reflecting something deeper and sicker in the fabric of European society, and in the moral rot lurking behind the EU judiciary’s shameful anti-shechitah ruling.

 

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