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Belgian non-stunned slaughter ban upheld by top EU court

The EU’s top court, the European Court of Justice, has upheld a decision by Flanders, the Dutch-speaking region of Belgium, to require all farm animals are stunned before slaughter, following a challenge by Jewish and Muslim groups. The ruling is binding case law in the UK, which means that EU law that will apply in the UK even after the end of the transition period does not prevent such a ban from also being introduced domestically. Humanists UK has said the decision should give UK legislators confidence to uphold animal welfare standards here too, by closing religious loopholes to animal welfare laws.

Ruling on whether the law violated religious freedoms under the EU’s Charter of Fundamental Rights, the Court said the ‘obligation to use reversible stunning was appropriate for achieving the objective of promoting animal welfare’, and so there was no infringement of anyone’s human rights. It found the Flemish government was pursuing a legitimate aim, underpinned by the best scientific evidence as to the animal welfare of farm animals, emerging from an ‘evolving societal and legislative context characterised by increasing awareness of the issue of animal welfare.’

At present, all farm animals in the UK must be stunned prior to slaughter, except when such slaughter is for halal or kosher meat. Humanists UK has restated its call for ministers to close these exemptions to animal welfare laws, as many countries have already one.

Humanists UK Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson said:

‘We know the UK Government is looking closely at how it can improve animal welfare standards in the UK, and an end to non-stunned slaughter would be one the most meaningful improvements it could make. This decision should give UK ministers confidence that such a change is possible in the UK.’

The ban on non-stunned slaughter in Flanders came into effect in January 2019, and followed a similar ban in Wallonia (French-speaking Belgium) the previous year.


For further comment or information, please contact Humanists UK Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson at or phone 020 7324 3072 or 07534 248 596.

Read more about the judgment.

Read more about our work on animal welfare.

Humanists UK is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people. Powered by 100,000 members and supporters, we advance free thinking and promote humanism to create a tolerant society where rational thinking and kindness prevail. We provide ceremonies, pastoral care, education, and support services benefitting over a million people every year and our campaigns advance humanist thinking on ethical issues, human rights, and equal treatment for all.

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