A political agreement was reached in Flanders to ban the slaughter of animals without stunning, starting from 2019, based on a sensitive dossier dealing with animal welfare with religious and economic considerations.
Political support for a ban has been growing in Flanders for several years, but the proposals for a decree put forward so far have been hindered on critical advice from the Council of State.
The High Court considers that a widespread ban on slaughter without stunning, thus removing the derogation granted for ritual slaughter, would constitute a disproportionate and incompatible restriction on freedom of religion. The Council of State recommended consultation with religious communities.
The Flemish Minister for Animal Welfare, Ben Weyts, appointed Piet Vanthemsche, (former head of the Boerenbond, the powerful Flemish agricultural alliance) and ex-deputy managing director of the Federal Food Safety Agency, as a mediator. The latter carried out the consultations and presented his recommendations to the Flemish parliament on Wednesday. It is on this basis that the parties of the government majority (N-VA, CD & V, Open Vld) have agreed to a ban on slaughter without prior stunning, starting from 2019.
For sheep, small ruminants and others, reversible stunning by electronarcosis will be the rule before any slaughter. This technique has not yet been developed for cattle. The technique of “post cut stunning”, i.e. stunning just after slaughter, will be used. However, the goal remains to make the electronarcosis effective by 2019.
In Wallonia, proposals for a decree for a ban on slaughter without stunning as early as 2019 were tabled in Parliament by two MR and cdH deputies. A vote is expected in mid-April.