The European Court of Justice ruled Thursday that governments can order that animals must be stunned before slaughter. The court backed a regulation imposed in the Flemish region of Belgium to ban the slaughter of animals that have not been stunned, on animal rights grounds.
Belgium’s Flanders regional government issued the order in 2017, which took effect in 2019, that slaughterhouses must stun animals before slicing their throat to reduce their pain and suffering.
Jewish and Muslim groups had argued the measure was an attack on their traditions and rituals and urged the European court to prioritize religious liberty. But the court put animal welfare first.
“The court concludes that the measures contained in the decree allow a fair balance to be struck between the importance attached to animal welfare and the freedom of Jewish and Muslim believers to manifest their religion,” the ruling said.
Most Muslim and Jewish groups don’t stun animals before slicing their throats. The animals are fully conscious when a knife cuts through them.
“Today is a great day… for the hundreds of thousands of animals who, thanks to this decision, will be spared the hellish pains of slaughter without stunning for religious purposes,” said Michel Vandenbosch, the head of animal rights group GAIA.
“For me, after more than 25 years of relentless struggle… this is one of the happiest days of my life.”
Some imams are in favor of stunning, saying that rendering animals unconscious (insensitive to pain) before cutting their throats and de-bleeding them is the correct thing to do according to Islam. Stunning causes an animal less pain and suffering.
In Turkey, six slaughterhouses stun their animals before slaughter.