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Muslim animal slaughter must occur in approved abattoirs: EU court

The EU’s top court ruled Tuesday that animal slaughter without stunning can only occur in approved abattoirs, saying a ban on temporary slaughter houses does not violate Muslim religious freedom.

In its ruling, the European Court of Justice upheld a 2014 ban in Belgium’s Flanders region against temporary abattoirs set up to cope with increased demand during Eid al-Adha, the Muslim feast of sacrifice.

“The Court confirms that ritual slaughter without stunning may take place only in an approved slaughterhouse,” the Luxembourg-based court said in a statement.

“That obligation does not infringe freedom of religion as it is only intended to organise and manage the freedom to practise ritual slaughter, taking into account the fundamental rules on the protection of animal welfare and the health of consumers of meat.”

Ritual slaughter without stunning is also practised by Jewish communities.

The court said EU laws have reconciled ritual slaughter with guarantees for animal welfare and consumer health.

In 2016, Muslim associations and an umbrella organisation of mosques had challenged the Flemish region on grounds that it breached freedom of religion.

But the court said: “An occasional problem of lack of slaughter capacity in one region of a Member State… is the result of a combination of domestic circumstances which cannot affect the validity of the regulation.”

It referred to the increase in demand for ritual slaughter over several days during Eid al-Adha.