Walloon parliament prepares for vote on slaughter without stunning
Wednesday, 17 May 2017
The Walloon parliament is preparing to vote during a plenary session, to be held at the end of today (Wednesday), upon the proposed decree aiming to prohibit slaughter without stunning. This will take effect on June 1st, 2018. As The Brussels Times indicated yesterday, the decree would create an exception through to September 1st, 2019, for ritual slaughter.
The legislation was originally introduced into parliament by the two deputies Josy Arens (of the cdH – Humaniste Democratic Centre) and Christine Defraigne (MR).
There has been intense lobbying of deputies in respect of the proposed legislation. This has come as much from animal rights activists, such as the organisation GAIA which favours the prohibition, as representatives of the Jewish and Muslim faiths. The latter oppose it with a view to protecting their religious rites.
The Jewish Consistory of Belgium and the Muslim Executive of Belgium (“the EMB”) have moreover reiterated their request, in recent days, for the Walloon parliament to seek the opinion of the Council of State on the legislation being voted upon.
Both bodies see this as a final attempt to hold up the enactment of the legislation, by opening a new consultation period.
There is, however, little chance of this request succeeding. The Haute Instance d’Avis (an active consultation body on political and cultural issues in Belgium) has given its verdict along the same lines on several occasions.
Such decisions have related to similar proposed legislation, which has come before the Flemish or the Walloon parliaments.
Walloon deputies from the PS, MR and cdH parties have unanimously approved the text at the Committee stage. They therefore feel that they have already taken the Council of State’s comments into consideration.
Thus, the consultation that the Jewish Consistory of Belgium and the EMB are requesting has, in fact, already been conducted over a long period, both in Flanders and Wallonia.
Proponents of the decree say that the provisions included therein are likely to be able to respond to any religious concerns.
As we alluded to earlier, the decree being put to the vote fixes the date of June 1st, 2018, as the date for the prohibition on slaughter without prior stunning coming into force.
However an exception will only be allowed for ritual slaughter, for which reversible stunning by electrical means will only be legally required with effect from September 1st, 2019. This process, if carried out correctly, is supposed not to lead to the animal’s death and involves the animal bleeding after stunning.
Essentially Wallonia is de facto allowing the slaughter industry and religious bodies time to prepare for the impact of the new legislation, until after the Muslim “Sacrifice Feast” of 2019. This will fall in the month of August.
In contrast, in Flanders the proposed decree by the government majority anticipates prohibition of ritual slaughter without stunning from January 1st, 2019, for sheep and goats.
Imports of meat which have already been slaughtered, prior to importing, do not fall within the legislation’s remit.