Ritual slaughter again: Executief van de Moslims van België


In Executief van de Moslims van België and Others v Belgium [2024] ECHR 137, the Flemish and Walloon Regions had both issued decrees prohibited the slaughter of animals without pre-stunning while providing for reversible stunning in cases of ritual slaughter. The applicants, organisations representing Muslims in Belgium and Muslim and Jewish nationals, lodged an unsuccessful application with the Constitutional Court to have those decrees set aside.

Before the ECtHR, they complained that the ban prevented the slaughter of animals in accordance with the precepts of their religions and that they faced the difficulty, if not impossibility, of obtaining halal and kosher meat. The Court had previously held that the ritual slaughter of animals fell within the scope of the right to manifest one’s religion as a matter of “observance” within the meaning of Article 9. It had also held that dietary restrictions or prescriptions might fall within the “practice” of a religion.

The judgment

The Court said that it was not for it to decide whether or not stunning prior to slaughter was in conformity with the dietary precepts of Muslim and Jewish believers [85 & 86]. It was apparent from the parliamentary debates leading to the adoption of the two decrees that the absence of pre-stunning was an aspect of the religious ritual that attained a certain level of cogency, seriousness, cohesion and importance, at least for certain Jews and Muslims, and there had therefore been an interference with the applicants’ freedom of religion [87 & 88]. Continue reading