Muslim organisations lose case against animal welfare minister


Muslims normally lining up at temporary slaughterhouses for Eid al-Adha will have to use official facilities or skip the sacrifice next week

Should the ban on slaughtering animals without stunning them be lifted during Eid al-Adha?

No lift on ban

A group of Muslim organisations that took Flemish animal welfare minister Ben Weyts to court to try to overturn his ban on ritual slaughter lost their case in a Brussels court yesterday. The organisations were seeking a temporary lifting of the ban on slaughtering animals without stunning them.

The ruling is the final blow to the Islamic Eid al-Adha, or Feast of the Sacrifice, which falls on 24 September. Traditionally, each family buys a sheep and has it slaughtered according to the ritual that the animal is conscious while having its throat slit. According to the organisations, that means no stunning, which uses an electrical charge to render the animal unconscious before slaughter.

In previous years, because of the spike in demand, slaughtering is carried out at temporary facilities. However, Ben Weyts, Flanders’ first animal welfare minister, has declared that ritual slaughter (without stunning) may only take place this year in officially licensed slaughterhouses. Muslim representatives said that the demand would far exceed the supply of slaughterhouses.

As a result, the Council of Theologians, a panel of experts on Islam, ruled earlier this month that the obligation to sacrifice this year is lifted, in the hope of arriving at a solution to the problem in time for next year’s Eid.

The court action was a last-minute bid to have the ban lifted to allow Eid to go ahead as usual. The court ruled only on the motion to grant an emergency lifting, but did not go into whether the ban is legal or, as the group argued, a breach of religious freedom.

“We respect the ruling of the court to uphold the ban on ritual slaughter outside of the licensed slaughterhouses,” Hasselt city councillor Habib El Ouakili told De Standaard. “Muslims will not carry out slaughter without stunning: We are also Flemings, with rights and duties, who are bound to abide by the democratic rule of law.”