French mosques fear slaughter policy change is ban on halal chicken

France's agricultural ministry denies it has introduced a ban on the no-stun practice.  [zblaster/Shutterstock]

Several major French mosques have expressed concern that a proposed ban on the slaughter of poultry without first stunning the animals would effectively lead to a ban on halal chicken, while the agriculture ministry says this concern is unfounded. EURACTIV France reports.

The Grand Mosques of Paris, Lyon, and Evry raised concerns of a “dramatic situation” in a press release on 18 March, where they said a change in rules effectively meant the slaughter of poultry in line with halal practices “will no longer be authorised” in France from July.

The mosques based this assessment on a technical instruction from France’s agriculture and food ministry published on 23 November.

The rules, which ban animals being slaughtered without first being stunned, will make it impossible to guarantee the respect of “dogmatic and fundamental principles of halal ritual slaughter,” the mosques said.

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The instruction states that “animals must be spared all pain, distress or avoidable suffering” and that in conventional slaughter “the loss of consciousness and sensibility of all poultry must be achieved after stunning and maintained throughout the bleeding process until death.”

However, the ministry document also reiterates that individual slaughterhouses may be exempt from the requirement to stun animals before slaughter and the ministry denied it has introduced a ban on the no-stun practice.

“To our knowledge, no suspension of authorisation for the derogation has been pronounced following the publication of this instruction,” an agriculture ministry spokesperson told EURACTIV.

The instruction only seeks to clarify the terms of a decree issued in 2011, which sets out the conditions needed for slaughterhouses to be exempt, the spokesperson confirmed.

The signatories of the mosques’ statement – which was published several months after the instruction – had not responded to EURACTIV’s questions about their concerns by the time of publication.

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Balancing animal welfare and religious freedom

This is the second time in a few months that the issue has attracted debate.

Last December, Israel criticised the EU after the Court of Justice in Luxembourg ruled in favour of a decree of the Flemish region in Belgium that banned slaughter without stunning, claiming it impeded the free exercise of their religious practices.

In its ruling of 17 December 2020, the court confirmed that EU countries may decide to grant derogations from the ban on slaughter without stunning but also have the right to oblige slaughterhouses to use reversible stunning procedures that do not result in animal deaths.

However, such a restriction is admissible insofar as it “meets an objective of general interest recognised by the EU, namely the promotion of animal welfare”.

The court ruled that the measures imposed by the Flemish decree “strike a fair balance between the importance attached to animal welfare and the freedom of Jewish and Muslim believers to exercise their religion”.

[Edited by Josie Le Blond]

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