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Belgian lawmakers ditch bill to ban kosher and halal slaughter in Brussels

Local parliament votes to scrap proposal, keeping Belgium’s capital as the only part of the country where ritual slaughter is still legal

Illustrative: An Orthodox rabbi checks the quality of poultry meat in a Kosher slaughterhouse in Csengele, Hungary on January 15, 2021. (AP Photo/Laszlo Balogh)
Illustrative: An Orthodox rabbi checks the quality of poultry meat in a Kosher slaughterhouse in Csengele, Hungary on January 15, 2021. (AP Photo/Laszlo Balogh)

JTA — Belgian promoters of a ban on kosher and halal slaughter of animals saw their bill defeated in Brussels, the seat of the European Union and the only region of Belgium where the practice is still legal.

The vote Friday in the parliament of the Brussels-Capital Region — one of three states that comprise the federal kingdom of Belgium — was on whether to scrap a bill proposing a ban. The bill, submitted by liberal and environmentally-centered parties, had been voted down in a committee that kicked it back to parliament.

Out of the 89 lawmakers in the region’s parliament, 42 voted in favor of scrapping, 38 voted against scrapping, eight abstained and one was not present, preserving for now the legality of kosher and halal slaughter in Brussels, the news site 7sur7 reported.

Had a majority of lawmakers voted against scrapping the bill, it would have come up to a vote in parliament, where lawmakers from diverse ideological backgrounds agree that any slaughter of an animal without prior stunning should be outlawed.

A majority of lawmakers in the parliaments of Belgium’s other states — the French-speaking Walloon Region and the Dutch-speaking Flemish Region — voted in favor of banning the practice in 2017 and 2019, respectively. A ban in Brussels would have had Belgium join a handful European Union states where halal and kosher slaughter of animals are totally illegal.

Brussels, a binational city that is the headquarters of multiple central organs of the EU, is often thought of as a symbol for the bloc. Throughout Western Europe, nationalists and progressives have found unity over a desire to ban kosher and halal slaughter.

Multiple parties with a perceived bias against Islam, and at times also Judaism, support banning kosher and halal slaughter because they see the practices as signs of an unwanted foreign presence. Those parties also tend to support banning the non-medical circumcision of boys, which both Muslims and Jews are commanded to perform.

Additionally, left-leaning parties with secularist and humanistic agendas oppose both ritual slaughter of animals and the circumcision of boys as unethical and unnecessary.

Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt, the president of the Conference of European Rabbis, welcomed the vote in a statement.

“These unsolicited bans have a dark historical precedent; rather than ushering in a future of increased animal welfare, these alarmingly legislative prohibitions are instead a harsh, destructive step backwards,” he wrote.

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