As the year 2018 came to a close Monday, it brought with it an end to kosher slaughter in the northern Flanders region of Belgium, home to half of the country’s Jewish population and a major supplier of meat for European Jewish communities.
In June 2017, the parliament in the Flemish region, one of the five sectors that make up the country, unanimously passed a resolution banning ritual slaughter without stunning.
The decision followed a similar one approved in May 2017 by the Walloon Parliament in the south, Belgium’s largest region. Both measures take effect in 2019.
Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt, president of the Conference of European Rabbis, a leading Orthodox rabbinical alliance in Europe, lamented Monday that locally produced kosher meat would no longer be available for the country’s two main Jewish population centers.
“Today is the last day on which kosher meat and poultry can be prepared in Belgium for the Jewish communities of Antwerp and Brussels,” he tweeted. “A sad day for the Jews of Europe, a sad day for religious freedom in Europe.”
Half of Belgium’s Jewish population of 40,000 people lives in the Flemish region. The remaining 20,000 live in the Brussels region. Walloon is home to just a few hundred Jews.