Belgium’s Walloon region has voted to outlaw kosher and halal meat by banning the ritual slaughter of unstunned animals.
The move has angered both Jewish and Islamic leaders and comes in a nation ridden with rising concern over multiculturalism and Islamisation following a spate of lethal Islamist attacks.
The environment committee of the Walloon region’s parliament voted unanimously for the measure, which will take effect in September 2019.
Similar legislation has been proposed by the parliament of the northern Flemish region of Belgium and countries including New Zealand, Switzerland, and Denmark already have laws banning unstunned slaughter.
Both Jewish kosher and Islamic halal rituals require butchers to slaughter animals by slitting their throats and draining their blood.
The process has been condemned by animal rights campaigners, who say it is cruel and more humane to stun animals before they are killed.
In the UK, more than 100,000 people signed a petition demand the practice was banned here, delivering the document to Downing Street in November last year.
The UK Independence Party (UKIP) put a promise to ban halal slaughter at the heart of its general election campaign last month with a new “integration agenda”. The party was accused of “full-throttled Islamophobia” after launching the policy.
“Muslims are worried about whether they can eat halal food… in conformity with their religious rites and beliefs,” said the Muslim Executive of Belgium, the official Muslim interlocutor of the Belgian federal government.
The European Jewish Congress (EJC) slammed the Walloon decision, telling Haaretz it was “scandalous”.
“This decision, in the heart of Western Europe and the centre of the European Union, sends a terrible message to Jewish communities throughout our continent that Jews are unwanted,” EJC president Moshe Kantor said.
“It attacks the very core of our culture and religious practice and our status as equal citizens with equal rights in a democratic society.
“It gives succour to antisemites and to those intolerant of other communities and faiths.”