EC law and (banning) the ritual slaughter of animals

13 February 2013    
Morten Messerschmidt (EFD)


It has been drawn to my attention that in recent years both the Kingdom of Sweden and the Republic of Poland wished to impose a ban on certain ritual/religious slaughter methods — specifically Muslim halal and Jewish shechita (kosher) slaughter — in the interest of the welfare and dignity of the animals.

In both cases the countries abandoned the attempt, allegedly because such a ban would conflict with EC law.

Can the Commission identify the provision of EC law which denies Member States the right to prohibit such slaughter methods in the interests of animal welfare?

Can the Commission also explain how denying them this right can be in accordance with the subsidiarity principle? 

Answer given by Mr Borg on behalf of the Commission

9 April 2013  

Regulation (EC) No 1099/2009(1) on the protection of animals at the time of killing establishes the general principle that animals shall only be killed after stunning. Yet Article 4 (4) of this regulation allows Member States to derogate from this principle for animals subject to particular methods of slaughter prescribed by religious rites, provided that the slaughter takes place in a slaughterhouse. As already explained in the answer to P-011704/12(2), like any derogation, Article 4(4) has to be interpreted in a narrow way taking into account the objectives of the regulation and the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union.

According to the principle of subsidiarity, Member States may conclude that given the situation on their territory they do not need to make to use of the derogation.

Article 26(2)(c) of the regulation provides that Member States may adopt national rules aimed at ensuring more extensive protection of animals at the time of killing than those contained in the regulation for animals subject to particular methods of slaughter prescribed by religious rites, where requirements for stunning do not apply. Member States must assess the consequences of such rules on animal welfare and on the freedom of religion as prescribed in Article 10 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights. Stricter rules concerning the protection of animals must comply with the freedom to manifest religion or belief, in accordance with Articles 10(1) and 52(1) of the Charter of Fundamental Rights and must be notified to the Commission.

To the Commission's knowledge Sweden and Poland currently do not allow slaughter without stunning.

(1)    OJ L 303, 18.11.2009.