European Jews fear future after shechita ban

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European Jews fear future after shechita ban

Strasbourg court says Belgian regions can insist on pre-stunning before slaughter

Jenni Frazer is a freelance journalist

Kosher met on display at a butchers.
Kosher met on display at a butchers.

The European Jewish Congress (EJC) has expressed deep concern for the future of viable Jewish community life in Europe after a top European court upheld a ban on shechita, religious Jewish slaughter, imposed by two regions in Belgium.

The ruling was made on Tuesday by the European Court of Human Rights (EHCR) in Strasbourg. EJC President Dr Ariel Muzicant said: “Restrictions on fundamental aspects of Jewish religious freedom of expression, coupled with a background of massive increases in antisemitic attacks on Jewish communities, lead us to seriously consider whether Jews have a future in Europe.”

He added: “This decision proves that basic European Union legislation allowing member states to derogate from the protection of shechita and impose selective bans does not protect minority communities in Europe and their religious practices. 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”.

The court ruling upheld the legality of Belgium’s Flemish and Walloon regions’ requirement that all animals slaughtered for human consumption must be killed only after pre-stunning. This effectively contravenes shechita, but the Jewish communities argue that the ban goes against Articles 9 and 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

“We are already seeing attempts across Europe to follow this Belgian ban, now sadly legitimised by the ECHR,” Muzicant said. “Jewish communities in Europe, now more than ever, need the protection of national governments and pan-European organisations to ensure that thousands of years of Jewish life on this continent do not come to an abrupt end.”

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