Jewish leaders say Belgian ban on kosher slaughter is worst assault on their rights since Nazis

Kosher inspector Aaron Wulkan examines display refrigerators containing meat in a food store to ensure that the food is stored and prepared according to Jewish regulations and customs in Bat Yam, Israel, October 31, 2016.Reuters

European rabbis have condemned a decision by the French-speaking Walloon parliament in Belgium to ban kosher and halal meat.

Rabbi Menachem Margolin, head of the Brussels-based European Jewish Association,  said in a statement: 'I can assure the Walloon parliament's environment committee members that my community is sickened.'

He spoke out after a committee decision to ban from September 2019 all slaugher of livestock that takes place without the animals first being stunned. The decision will be voted on in plenary this month.

The Flemish parliament has indicated that it will follow suit.

In his statement Rabbi Margolin said: 'For too long in Europe Jewish people lived as second class citizens, depending on the goodwill of those in power, people that never really respected the Jewish People and their traditions. We assumed that these days were in the past given that EU legislation enshrines freedom of religion as a basic right. We were led to believe that this was intractable.'

He asked: 'What trust can we have from those in power when they renew a needless attack on the Jewish people and our way of life?

'The community will not just stand by and let this happen. We are resolute that the Jewish way of life, including kosher slaughter, will be retained as an integral part of our personal freedom.'

Chief Rabbi of Moscow, Pinchas Goldschmidt, president of the Conference of European Rabbis, said in a statement to Christian Today: 'There was a time when we could all recognise who was anti-Semitic. They were from the far-right or the far-left. In recent elections these groups have suffered significant losses; Le Penn in France, Wilders here in the Netherlands and UKIP in the UK.

'The problem now is that centrist parties are adopting these policies to attract voters. The recent bans on religious practice in Norway and in the Wallonia region of Belgium were enacted not by extremists but by centre left parties. We have to ask ourselves, is faith under attack from the political centre?'

'If the answer is yes, this presents a new danger to our communities and we need to fight it in the same way that we have fought extremism.'

Philippe Markiewicz, president of the Central Jewish Consistory of Belgium, said the decision was 'a grave moment in the history of Belgian Jewry'.

The European Jewish Congress said it was 'the greatest assault on Jewish religious rights in Belgium since the Nazi occupation', according to Evangelical Focus.

Denmark and Switzerland already prohibit ritual slaughter, where a butcher slaughters an animal by cutting its throat and draining its blood. Animal rights campaigners argue that for humane reasons, the animals should first be stunned.