EU Court of Justice: Slaughter without stunning on temporary sites was and will remain illegal in Belgium

Today, in the C-426/16 case, the Court of Justice of the EU ruled that Regulation 1099/2009 is valid and is respecting freedom of belief. In this case, the flemish Court of Brussels was asked to decide if the Brussels law prohibiting ritual slaughters (slaughter without prior stunning) in temporary slaughterhouses (but not in "official" slaughterhouses) was valid. The plaintif, an organisation representing muslims organisations, has estimated that this duty to use only "official" slaughterhouses was in practice infringing the freedom of beliefs of muslims in Brussels. The flemish Court of Brussels decided to hold on the litigation and refer the question to the EU Court of Justice, whose finally stated in favour of the validity of the legislation.

Today's decision is a big step for animals slaughtered every year without stunning, and will probably help the Belgian Constitutional Court to validate the similar legislation adopted by other Belgian regions (wallonia and flanders) that are currently challenged. 

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15.06.2017 – EU Court of Justice rules that terms “milk”, “butter”, “cream” and “yoghurt” can no longer be used to describe Plant-Based alternatives to dairy products

FOUR PAWS dismayed by the decision which goes against common sense

On June 14th 2017, the EU Court of Justice of the European Union decided (1) that using names commonly associated with dairy products to describe plant-based alternatives such as “soya-butter”, “rice-cream” or “soya-milk”, can lead to confusion among consumers and should therefore be considered contrary to EU legislation.

The original legal complaint was issued by German competition association Verband Sozialer Wettbewerb (VSW), against Tofutown, a vegan company. In particular, VSW used EU Regulation 1308/2013, which defines the characteristics and the terms that may be used within the EU for marketing a product, to support their case that terms such as “butter”, “cream” or “milk” should only be used in relation to dairy products.

However, Tofutown argued that the terms could not mislead the consumers, as they were always associated to other words, referring to plant-based origin products (such as soya-milk or rice-cream). The Court based its decision on the annexes of the EU Regulation No 1308/2013, in which milk is defined: “an animal product”, designating “exclusively the normal mammary secretion obtained from one or more milkings without either addition thereto or extraction therefrom”.

Pierre Sultana, Director of the FOUR PAWS’ European Policy Office commented on the decision: “The Commission has already set up exceptions to the use of terms such as “milk” or “butter”, in a separate Regulation (2). What justification is there for allowing the use of words for products such as “Ice-cream”, “nut butter” or “fruit cheese” containing no dairy products, but not for Soya-milk?

This regulation implemented by the court, is clearly financially and economically driven, because plant-based products alternative to milk products, have been on the market for many years,” said Sonja Svensek, Head of Nutrition in FOUR PAWS International’s Farm Animals & Nutrition department. “Since these products are made and produced to look and taste like their animal derived counterparts, they should be allowed to be marketed according to similar selling principles”.

This ruling has immediate effect and all companies manufacturing vegan products must comply to it, forcing them to rename their products as soon as possible. The only solution would be for the Member States to update these Plant-Based alternatives to dairy products in the derogation list of the regulation (2).


(1) Case C‑422/16, Case C‑422/16, Verband Sozialer Wettbewerb eV v GmbH, 14.06.2017

(2) Annex I to Commission Decision 2010/791/EU of 20 December 2010 listing the products referred to in the second subparagraph of point III(1) of Annex XII to Council Regulation (EC) No 1234/2007



Commission refers Bulgaria to Court of Justice over failure to sufficiently protect endangered bird species

In Europe, many species of wild birds are in decline, which disturbs the biological balance and is a serious threat to the natural environment. Directive 2009/147/EC on the conservation of wild birds aims to protect all species of wild birds that occur naturally in the Union. The Directive bans activities that directly threaten birds, such as the deliberate killing or capture, destruction of nests, removal of eggs, trading live or dead birds. It also places great emphasis on the protection of habitats for endangered and migratory species, by establishing the network of Special Protection Areas.

The European Commission is taking Bulgaria to the Court of Justice of the EU over its failure to protect unique habitats and important bird species in the Rila Mountains. The Bulgarian authorities have failed to widen the zone classified as a special protection area in order to provide adequate protection to 17 endangered bird listed in Annex I of the Birds Directive, thus putting at risk the conservation of species such as Tengmalm's [Boreal’s] owl (Aegolius funereus) and the Eurasian pygmy owl (Glaucidium passerinum), as well as the white-backed woodpecker (Dendrocopos leucotos), the three-toed woodpecker (Picoudes tridactilus), the hazel grouse (Bonasa bonasia) and the black woodpecker (Dryocopus martius).

Despite the Commission's reasoned opinion sent in October 2014 about the need to extend protection areas in the Rila Mountains, Bulgaria has not complied with this obligation. The Commission is, therefore, referring this case to the Court of Justice of the EU.

In January 2016, the Court ruled against Bulgaria (case C-141/14) in a similar case concerning the designation and protection of Kaliakra, another important area for protection of birds in the Southern Dobruja region of the northern Bulgarian Black Sea Coast.

Original article on EC website.