Humanising Animal Slaughter Need Not Infringe Religious Freedom (Amicus Curiae Brief in C-336/19 Centraal Israëlitisch Consistorie Van België and Others)
13 Pages Posted: 18 Dec 2020 Last revised: 6 Apr 2021
Date Written: October 21, 2020
Stunning animals before slaughter and avoiding unnecessary suffering is mandatory throughout the EU. Although the EU Animal Slaughter Regulation allows for a ‘religious exception’ departing from such a practice, it also expressly enables Member States to adopt “national rules aimed at ensuring more extensive protection of animals at the time of killing”. That’s how Denmark, Sweden and Slovenia were able to, ban slaughter without stunning tout court.
The Flemish region falls short of banning un-stunned slaughter, by prescribing instead reversible stunning. This method, by rendering the animal unconscious only for the time it takes to cut its throat, seems to respect the religious requirement of it remaining alive so the blood is pumped out by its still beating heart. According to well-established scientific evidence, this method is not only less traumatizing for the animal, and makes its handling easier for the butcher, but it is also accepted by a growing number of representatives of these religious communities. However, reversible stunning - as prescribed by the Flemish region - now faces a major legal challenge across Europe, having been challenged before the Belgian Constitutional Court, which has in turn referred the matter to the Court of Justice of the EU.
This amicus curiae brief argues that a legislation – like the Flemish decree in question – prescribing an alternative stunning procedure for the slaughter carried out in the context of a religious rite is permissible under Union law, not least having regard to the guarantees of religious liberty and freedom contained in the Charter. It presents reversible stunning as a method that successfully balances the apparently competing values of religious freedom expressed in ritual slaughtering on the one hand and the concern for animal welfare on the other under current EU law.
Keywords: Animal Welfare, Animal Law, Animal Rights, Religious Freedom, Halal, Kosher, Shechita, Public Health, European Union, Competence, Subsidiarity, Proportionality, Slaughter, Stunning
JEL Classification: K1, K2, K20, K32, K33
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation