Muslims Sue Animal Welfare Minister Over Halal Slaughter Ban

Several Muslim organisations are bringing legal proceedings against the Flemish Animal Welfare Minister, Ben Weyts. They hope to revoke regulations introduced by him banning the ritual slaughter of animals in temporary abattoirs for halal meat.

The ban on the slaughter of conscious animals at improvised abattoirs is intended to prevent the annual slaughter of roughly 20,000 sheep in temporary slaughterhouses run by Belgian-based Muslims for their coreligionists. The halal meat produced is supplied for the Eid al-Adha holiday feast.

Mr. Weyts previously stated that the use of temporary abattoirs breaches European Union legislation “which permits the slaughter of conscious animals only for religious reasons and in authorised slaughterhouses”, reports the Times of Israel, and could therefore jeopardise all slaughtering of conscious animals.

While both Jewish and Muslim religious laws dictate animals are conscious when their necks are cut — a practice opposed by animal rights activists — kosher slaughter, or shehitah, only occurs in permanent licensed slaughterhouses. As such the current ban has no direct effect on the Jewish community.

Mr. Weyts warns, however, that if exceptions are made for halal slaughter it could jeopardise all slaughter of conscious animals irrespective of venue. He explained:

“Because of motions by animal welfare organisations that hang over our heads, there is uncertainty. If they go to court, they will win right away and that will be a total situation of chaos because then only stunned animals may be slaughtered.”

Now, in a case which will come before the Court of First Instance this Friday, 10 Muslim organisations are calling for ban to be revoked and for €1,000 compensation to be paid for the damage they claim their reputations have suffered, reports RTL.

It is the Muslim groups’ second attempt to overturn the ritual slaughter ban. Previously they claimed stopping the use of temporary abattoirs breached their right to freedom of religion and represented a de facto ban on halal methods. That case was thrown out by a Brussels court last September.

The organisations in question pledged further legal action at the time, saying they would go as far as the European Court of Human Rights if need be. Mr. Weyts has expressed his regret at this second set of proceedings, saying:

“They just seem absurd. I’ve already won one case for interim relief, and the Council of State also said that I am in the right.

“I have just started consultation about the organisation of this year’s Feast of Eid al-Adha in September. The same groups that have issued the writ are those that always said that they were in favour of constructive dialogue. A summons delivered on the eve of a meeting, it’s a weird way to be constructive.”

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