Animal rights activists in Belgium have welcomed the setting up of temporary abattoirs during Eid to enforce federal and EU legislation that bans the ritual slaughter of animals outside official slaughter houses.
“We're happy to see the government is taking concrete steps to apply the law,” said Michel Van Den Bosch of the animal rights group, GAIA.
Local authorities in Brussels, in consultation with the Executif des Musulmans de Belgique (EMB), an elected representative body for Belgian Muslims, have set up 12 temporary abattoirs to carry out the slaughter on behalf of Muslims who wish to perform the sacrifice.
“We're co-operating fully with the authorities in making this project run as smoothly as possible and we know of no Muslims who object to the new measures,” said a spokesman at the EMB. “We will inspect the locations to ensure they meet Islamic standards.”
“Since 1996, we've been talking to the Muslim community and putting pressure on the authorities… I am pleased to see that more and more Muslims are heading in that direction and are not sacrificing animals at home,” Van Den Bosch, one of Belgium's best-known and most fiery advocates of animals, noted. “The issue, as we see it, is one of hygiene and not letting the animals suffer.”
GAIA is opposed to what they see as the quite common practice of transporting animals in the backs of cars with their limbs bound together. However, they also maintain that the traditional Islamic method of slaughtering animals by slitting their throats is unnecessarily cruel and are calling on Muslims to permit the pre-stunning of livestock before it is killed.
“The traditional sacrifice makes the animal suffer unnecessarily,” Van Den Bosch said. “The next step is to start a dialogue with the Muslim community to persuade them to accept pre-stunning,” he added, noting that conservative Muslims would probably not accept such a notion.
One of Belgium's top Islamic clerics, while maintaining that the Muslim method was not cruel to the animals, has just issued a fatwa (Islamic edict) saying that the drugging of the animal and rendering it unconscious does not contravene Islamic teachings.
“We (the Muslims) do not view ‘direct slaughter' (the traditional Islamic method) as being unkind to animals,” Sheikh Al-Hassan bin al-Siddiq, president of Belgium's Islamic Council of Ulama (religious scholars) said in his fatwa, emphasising that the Islamic method led to the rapid death of the animal, thereby minimising its suffering. He also noted that Islam had strict rules about the handling of animals awaiting slaughter, including the injunction not to kill one animal in the presence of another so that it does not have to “suffer death twice”.
“Nevertheless, Islam does not prohibit pre-stunning when necessary… as long as the animal does not die (from the stunning),” Sheikh bin Al-Siddiq's fatwa concluded.