Agudath Israel of America expresses its grave concern over the ban in the Flanders region of Belgium that effectively prohibits the slaughter of animals according to kosher ritual requirements. The new law places a substantial burden on religious liberty and on Jewish life in Belgium and other affected European countries. We are hopeful that the constitutional court will recognize this serious infringement on the rights of the Jewish community and strike down this grievous statute.

Jewish law scrupulously safeguards the humane treatment of animals, and its rules regarding kosher slaughter require a swift and painless kill. There is no need to require prior stunning, a practice which compromises Jewish law and makes kosher certification impossible. Many countries, including the United States, recognize in their law the humane nature of the millennia-old practice of kosher slaughter and have exempted it from further unnecessary regulation.

Leaders of the Belgian Jewish community have indicated that the new law in Flanders — and the pending one that is intended to go into effect later this year in Wallonia — will have a clear negative impact on the kosher food industry and on the availability and accessibility of kosher meat and poultry. The relocation of facilities will be disruptive to companies, workers and consumers and result in possible shortages, and an attendant rise in costs, that will be detrimental to those wishing a lifestyle in line with Jewish belief and practice.

The Belgian constitutional court should fulfill its mandate and carefully consider these imperatives as it reviews the law. The Jewish community, and other faith groups affected by this law, must be free of the burden placed on their ability to properly adhere to their religion and be granted accommodation of practices that allow them to enjoy a full measure of religious life.