In 1933, shortly after Hitler came to power, Germany enacted a law forbidding Jewish ritual slaughter. Three years later, the Polish legislature passed a similar bill, supposedly on humanitarian grounds—but the actual motivations of a government that was increasingly hostile toward Jews, in an era before animal-rights groups, were no mystery. Such laws have of late experienced renewed popularity in Europe, most recently in the form of a 2017 ban in Belgium. Like its Polish predecessor, it comes in the form of a requirement that animals be stunned before slaughter—a measure unacceptable to both halakhah and sharia. Last week, the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) upheld the law. Melissa Langsam Braunstein writes:
[T]he CJEU took the rare step of disregarding [its own] advocate general’s recommendation [that religious carve-outs to the law be made], effectively prioritizing animal rights over Jewish and Muslim Europeans’ religious freedom. It’s a striking choice because Europe remains a continent where millions of minks are still farmed for fashion (or culled for COVID-19 infection), and ducks or geese are force-fed to produce foie gras, a process wherein the “liver swells to approximately 600 percent of its normal size.”
Without question, Thursday’s ruling stands in stark contrast to Europeans’ preferred image of themselves as open-minded and tolerant. Insisting that Jews and Muslims adapt religious laws, which seek to minimize animals’ pain, simply to suit contemporary sensibilities is anything but that.
[Moreover], this ruling won’t be contained. Kosher meat, which is already expensive, will likely become even harder to obtain in a growing number of countries. Further, this ruling is likely to encourage political extremists who would relish making life inhospitable for their countries’ Jewish and Muslim minorities.
Europe’s hostility toward religious outsiders is a centuries-old tradition. It appears that it will always find a way to justify bigotry.