Netanyahu appeals to European leaders not to outlaw kosher slaughter

European regulations prohibit slaughter without pre-stunning, but make an exception for religious reasons. However, member states may pass their own laws to reduce animal suffering.

DEMONSTRATORS WEAR a sheep and a cow mask to protest kosher and halal slaughter, at the German Chancellery in Berlin in 2012. (photo credit: THOMAS PETER/REUTERS)
DEMONSTRATORS WEAR a sheep and a cow mask to protest kosher and halal slaughter, at the German Chancellery in Berlin in 2012.
(photo credit: THOMAS PETER/REUTERS)
European leaders must speak out about protections for religious minorities after the European Union Court of Justice (EUJC) decision to uphold a ban on ritual slaughter, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wrote in a letter to European leaders this week.
“I… would be very grateful if you announce that the freedom of religion of minorities will continue to be secure, and that religious slaughter will continue to be permitted,” Netanyahu wrote. “As a pivotal leader, your voice will send a powerful message throughout Europe.”
Netanyahu sent the letter to the leaders of France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Hungary, Spain, Portugal, Ireland and Finland, as well as to the presidents of the European Commission and the European Council.
The message came about six weeks after the European Union Court of Justice upheld a ban on kosher and halal slaughter in Belgium. The court dismissed arguments by Jewish and Muslim groups that Belgium is infringing on their religious freedom by requiring them to stun animals in the process of slaughtering them for meat, which would be contrary to their religious precepts. The ruling set a precedent that could lead to more EU member states passing laws against shechita, Jewish ritual slaughter.
Netanyahu wrote that the “decision threatens the religious freedom of Jews throughout Europe.”
“The leaders and institutions of European Jewry have expressed their shock at this decision and its harmful effect on the viability of Jewish life in the EU,” the prime minister wrote. “As the Government of Israel, we stand for religious freedom for all. Jews around the world should be able to live full Jewish lives wherever they choose to reside.”
Diaspora Affairs Minister Omer Yankelevich of the Blue and White Party, asked Netanyahu to write the letter and praised him for doing so.
“The fight against the prohibition of kosher slaughter for Jews in Europe requires a broad government effort,” she said. “I am certain that the leaders of Europe will take his letter seriously.”
European regulations prohibit slaughter without prior stunning, but make an exception for religious reasons. However, member states may pass their own laws to reduce animal suffering.
The EUCJ determined that the Belgian laws passed in 2017 struck “a fair balance” between animal rights and the rights of Jews and Muslims. Their reasoning is based on the accommodation that the law allows for “reversible stunning,” though mainstream Jewish and Muslim authorities do not permit that procedure in ritual slaughter.
The court did not accept the argument that hunting and killing animals at “cultural or sporting events” is permitted, even though those animals are not stunned.
Coordinating Committee of Jewish Organizations in Belgium President Yohan Benizri, who is also vice president of the European Jewish Congress, said last month: “No democracy can exist when its citizens are denied basic human and civil rights. We plan to pursue every legal recourse to right this wrong.”
Ambassador to Belgium Emmanuel Nahshon said the ruling is “a catastrophic decision, a blow to Jewish life in Europe. Apparently, tolerance and diversity are empty words in the eyes of some Europeans.”
Jeremy Sharon contributed to this report.