Publicity campaign begins for new humane animal slaughter law


From 1 January, sheep, goats and poultry must be stunned before they are killed, reducing pain and distress

Controversial law

A publicity campaign begins this month to inform people about a ban on killing animals while they are still conscious. The law came into effect throughout Flanders on 1 January and, from now on, animals must be stunned before they are slaughtered.

The main campaign image features two sheep. One has an eye open, the white showing, and is labelled "onverdoofd" (not stunned). The other sheep's eye is closed, and this is labelled "verdoofd" (stunned). The slogan is "Flanders chooses animal welfare".

The campaign will target popular papers and magazines, such as Metro, Dag Allemaal, and Story, and will also feature strongly on social media. "We want everyone to know what we are changing, and why we are doing it," said animal welfare minister Ben Weyts, who has been working towards the ban since he was appointed in 2014.

The law has been controversial because some Jewish and Islamic traditions insist that animals such as sheep and goats should be killed while conscious. Consultations persuaded some faith groups, while others challenged the draft law in court. The move was also resisted by some farmers and slaughterhouses, who protested against the cost. Eventually they were given a year and a half to prepare for the change.

Under the new law, sheep, small ruminants and poultry can only be killed once they have been electrically stunned, a process that makes them insensitive to pain. Another method will be used for calves and cattle, until electric stunning can be adapted for them too.

Having finally got the legislation over the line, Weyts is adamant that the ban is both desirable and necessary. "Flanders is taking the lead internationally for greater animal welfare," he said, launching the publicity campaign. "This is something of which we, as a community, can be very proud."

A similar ban will come into effect in Wallonia in September this year.