Belgium's Flemish right wing Vlaams Belang party leader Filip Dewinter and supporters wave Flemish flags.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Belgium’s far-right Vlaams Belang party said it will submit a bill proposing a blanket ban on ritual slaughter.
Vlaams Belang made the statement Monday in reaction to a cabinet minister’s announcement on forbidding the slaughter of animals in temporary slaughterhouses as of next year throughout most of the federal monarchy.
The regulation announced on Sunday by Ben Weyts, Belgium’s minister for animal welfare, was disappointing and insufficient, the party said.
In a statement on its bid to ban ritual slaughter, Vlaams Belang wrote, “If the minister won’t take the initiative on this matter, Vlaams Belang will.”
Weyts’s ban was seen as designed to stop the killing of thousands of sheep in provisionary slaughterhouses that Muslims operate annually for other Muslims ahead of the Id al-Fitr holiday.
Some members of Belgium’s Jewish community said it would not affect Jewish slaughter, or shechita, which is performed at licensed and permanent abattoirs.
Religious laws in Islam and Judaism require that animals be conscious when their necks are cut. Throughout Europe, the practice is under attack from animal rights activists who find it cruel and far-right movements that view it as an unwelcome foreign custom. The party won 3.7 percent of the vote in the federal elections earlier this year and 5.9% of the vote in the elections for the Flemish parliament. But in 2007, Vlaams Belang emerged as the country’s third-largest party with nearly 12% of the vote in federal elections.
Virtually all other Belgian political parties consider Vlaams Belang a pariah movement and will not enter into power-sharing agreements with it, making it impossible for the party to enter the government.
Political analysts say the party has lost many votes to the center- right movement of Weyts, the New Flemish Alliance.
In response to Weyts’s announcement, Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt, the president of the Conference of European Rabbis, stated that he recognized that the minister’s comments “are not a move against religious slaughter.”
“In fact, the government has taken a strong position against unregulated and unlicensed religious slaughter and they are to be commended for doing so.
Shechita has animal welfare at its heart, and this is achieved in Belgium and right across Europe because we use religious slaughter men with the highest levels of training and expertise in licensed slaughterhouses. What is extremely troubling, however, is the deeply unpleasant reaction to the minister’s comments from the far-right Vlaams Belang party, who are using the animal welfare issues around Id al-Fitr to call for a blanket ban. Europeans have a collective responsibility to expose and marginalize far-right parties who peddle the politics of prejudice, and the CER will be making urgent representations to the government in Belgium to reject the poisonous policies of Vlaams Belang,” the rabbi said.
Shechita has been a subject of debate in a number of European nations, with the CER last week commending Lithuania for passing a bill permitting the practice.
Denmark recently banned such slaughter, despite shechita not being practiced there, and a similar ban was recently overturned in Poland.
Sam Sokol contributed to this report.