Global Action for the Interest of Animals (GAIA) has teamed up with Belgian movie star Jean-Claude Van Damme to protest a recent vote by the Brussels Parliament against a ban on unstunned slaughter, which is typically practised in the context of religious ritual slaughter.
Brussels lawmakers fear that such a ban would discriminate against Jewish and Muslim communities, who use Kosher and Halal slaughtering practices, which involves killing animals unstunned with sharp knives.
“I’m supporting GAIA, a great organisation, against the slaughtering of animals (without stunning). We did the mink together, we succeeded. So let’s try to do this with cows and sheep in the Brussels parliament,” Van Damme said in a video address.
Van Damme, during his address, highlights the fact that Brussels is the only remaining region in Belgium to still allow religious slaughter. “I know deep in my heart that you will help me, like your brothers and sisters in Wallonia and Flanders did,” he said.
Religious tolerance vs animal rights
The practice of religious slaughter is a point of contention in Brussels' multicultural fabric. It has divided opinions among political parties and the ruling Brussels coalition.
The ban on non-stunned slaughter will soon move to a plenary session within the Brussels parliament to be voted on again, this time by all the region's politicians. It expected that the vote will be close, and even go in favour of a ban due to split opinions within political parties.
To this end, Aurélie Czekalski, MP for the Francophone liberal party Mouvement Réformateur (MR) states that there are ways of still upholding cultural and religious traditions in slaughter, while also reducing animal suffering.
For the ban to be passed, it must still overcome stiff opposition from the largest party in Brussels, the Socialist Party (PS), who fear that the ban would discriminate against religious groups.
MP Leila Agic stated that “the debate remains fragmented and discriminatory…no method of slaughter can guarantee the absence of suffering.”
The Brussels Green Party, did not instruct their politicians on how to vote on the proposal.
Convincing Brussels lawmakers
Animal rights group GAIA says that their capital region risks falling into a “state of emergency for thousands of animals” if the ban does not go ahead on 17 June. Animal rights groups, along with politicians from the DéFi party, state that there is a “scientific consensus” that non-stunned slaughter causes “unnecessary suffering” to animals.
GAIA president Michel Vandenbosch states that the scientific evidence behind animal suffering, high court rulings in Belgium and the EU, and the examples of Wallonia and Flanders should serve to inspire the ban in Brussels. It calls the bans in the other areas of Belgium a “fair balance between religious freedom and the interests of animal welfare.”
- Ritual slaughter ban proposal divides Brussels lawmakers
- European court allows banning of ritual slaughter for Jews and Muslims
GAIA says that if these factors fail to convince, then perhaps popular figurehead Van Damme will help to convince Brussels lawmakers. “Jean-Claude Van Damme may be able to push the Brussels parliament to take the most ethically sound, most progressive and most justified decision in the interest of the weakest and most vulnerable party, the animals.”
GAIA denounced Brussels politicians who “give lip service to animal welfare, but in practice maintain the animal suffering caused by unstunned slaughter.”
“The only correct decision in accordance with modern standards and values regarding the treatment of animals in 2022 in our democratic constitutional state, is to no longer allow the exception for religiously motivated slaughter, to prohibit unstunned slaughter also in the Brussels-Capital region and to impose stunning,” Vandenbosch concluded.