Europe’s top court has backed a ban in Belgium on the slaughter of animals that had not been stunned. Jewish and Muslim groups have warned this may curtail religious freedom. Animal rights activists had pushed for the ban, which could prevent both kosher and halal ritual slaughter. The European Court of Justice (ECJ) has ruled that EU member states could legally ban stun-free slaughter, despite initial opposition from religious groups.
In 2017, the Flemish region of Belgium prohibited the slaughter of animals without reversible stunning beforehand. Jewish and Muslim groups in the country challenged the legislation, citing freedom of religion. The effect of this law is, in essence, to prohibit the slaughtering of animals by means of traditional Jewish and Muslim rites and to require that such animals be stunned prior to slaughter in order to reduce their suffering. But the ECJ found that the regulation was only limited to “one aspect of the specific ritual act of slaughter,” and that the slaughter itself was not prohibited.