Muslims celebrate first Eid without ritual slaughter


For the first time, Muslims must celebrate the Festival of the Sacrifice in Flanders without slaughtering an animal that has not first been stunned by electric shock

Summer means celebrating abroad

Muslims are celebrating Eid al-Adha, or the Festival of the Sacrifice, this week with a complete ban on slaughter without stunning for the first time. The change to the law was announced more than two years ago, so the community has had ample time to prepare.

That could be one reason why there was little protest around the ban at the weekend; Sunday was the first day of Eid. Also making a difference is the time of year. As Eid is falling in August, many Muslims are in their countries of origin celebrating the three-day feast with extended family.

Eid al-Adha requires Muslim families to slaughter an animal – usually a sheep. Families buy the sheep from local farmers and take them to a slaughterhouse for the ritual slaughter – meaning slaughter without stunning. It is believed that slaughtering an animal after it has been stunned is not in keeping with requirements and so made the procedure unacceptable to Muslim communities in Belgium.

It had already been legislated that the slaughter of livestock in Flanders be done only after stunning the animal with an electric shock to the brain. But during Eid, licensed slaughterhouses were allowed to sidestep the ban to meet the demands of religious commitment.

We have announced that Muslims are no longer required to slaughter a sheep for Eid

- Mohammed Bachiri

This year for the first time, that was not allowed. It is also not allowed to slaughter an animal outside of a slaughterhouse in Flanders, so ritual slaughter has been rendered impossible in the region.

The situation for Eid will be the same in Wallonia starting next year, as its law on stunning before slaughter comes into force on 1 September. Brussels has no such ban, as long as animals are slaughtered in the license slaughterhouse in Anderlecht.

The Muslim Executive, which represents Muslims in Belgium, has stated many times that it does not agree with the ban and sees it as an infringement of fundamental religious rights. “We have announced that Muslims are no longer required to slaughter a sheep for Eid,” Mohammed Bachiri, chair of the Al Fath Islamic centre in Leuven, told Gazet van Antwerpen. “Most of them will send money to their families overseas so that they can slaughter a sheep and celebrate the holiday.”

Photo: James Arthur Gekiere/BELGA