Halal Industry 

Belgian region of Flanders joins growing list of European states to ban unstunned slaughter

| 07 January, 2019
Belgian region of Flanders joins growing list of European states to ban unstunned slaughter
Photo for illustrative purposes only. A butcher looks at pieces of beef meat stored in a fridge at a slaughterhouse in Brussels, Belgium July 27, 2017. REUTERS/Yves Herman

The Belgian region of Flanders on Jan 1 joined a growing list of European states outlawing unstunned poultry and livestock slaughter. Flanders had previously operated an exemption to European Union law on religious grounds.

Another Belgian region, Wallonia, is expected to introduce similar legislation in August, bringing most of Belgium in line with a growing number of European countries, including Sweden, Norway, Iceland, Denmark and Slovenia, which do not allow religious exemptions for unstunned slaughter. The issue was also raised in Austria, Poland, Netherlands and Switzerland in 2018.

The Flemish parliament had voted unanimously in June 2017 to outlaw the slaughter of animals without stunning.

Muslim and Jewish religious groups that practise unstunned slaughter hope the ban will be overturned later this year after they filed lawsuits with Belgium’s Constitutional Court.

While Muslim and Jewish groups that have been practising unstunned slaughter are unhappy about the ban, animal rights advocates have expressed their delight. These claim that animals will suffer unduly if they are not stunned prior to slaughter—a position taken by the EU.

TO STUN OR NOT TO STUN?

Not all Islamic countries and Muslim certification bodies require animals to be conscious when they are slaughtered, and some believe this approach is not sustainable on a global scale.

Muslim-majority countries including Indonesia, Malaysia, the United Arab Emirates and Jordan allow the import, sale and consumption of pre-slaughter stunned animals.

New Zealand, a major halal sheep meat exporter, has reportedly faced no issues from Islamic countries for adopting a similar stunning policy to that in Belgium.

However, some countries, including Pakistan, entirely prohibit the import of stunned meat.

From a regulatory point of view, Dr Muhammad Munir Chaudry, president of the Islamic Food and Nutrition Council of America (IFANCA), a Chicago-based certifier, previously told Salaam Gateway that while he advocates hand slaughter, he can “accept” some forms of stunning.

“Each religious group has the right to make its own decision on [whether to allow stunning],” he said at a halal event in April in Kuala Lumpur last year.

“To feed up to two billion people, hand slaughter is not that practical and becomes too costly. I believe the Prophet Mohammed was the most progressive person of his time. He would be adopting all the conveniences that are available today. The world has moved on.”

In Britain, the two main certification agencies, the Halal Food Authority (HFA) and the Halal Monitoring Committee (HMC), agree on many things, though their most notable difference concerns the issue of stunning animals before slaughter. HFA allows this under certain conditions.

“We are a halal certifier with good relations with mosques and the Muslim community. We approve both stunned and non-stunned slaughter,” Saqib Mohammed, HFA’s chief executive, told Salaam Gateway in July last year. 

The HMC is generally considered to be more orthodox in its interpretation of Shariah and refuses to endorse stunned slaughter in all cases.

Malaysia’s JAKIM, the world’s leading halal certification authority, allows stunning as long as it is done in accordance with Malaysian Standards MS1500, or through a method approved by the Malaysian Fatwa Council. 

The Standards and Metrology Institute of Islamic Countries (SMIIC), which sets standards within the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, states: “All forms of stunning and concussion… shall be prohibited." However, if stunning does become necessary, perhaps to prevent an agitated animal from harming a slaughterer, SMIIC sets out regulations governing the voltage of electric stunning equipment and the length of time in which the slaughter must be carried out.

(Reporting by Richard Whitehead; Editing by Emmy Abdul Alim emmy.alim@refinitiv.com)

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