Dec. 17 (UPI) -- A European Union court ruled Thursday that EU member states could introduce mandatory pre-slaughter stunning for animal slaughter in rituals.
Stunning is defined under current regulations as any intentionally induced process that causes lack of consciousness and sensibility without pain, including any process resulting in instantaneous death.
The Court of Justice of the European Union ruled that states could introduce stunning regulation to reduce animal pain during slaughter operations carried out for meat through Jewish and Islamic rites, which require the animals be drained of as much blood as possible.
Eurogroup for Animals, which has been following the case, released an opinion poll in October showing that 92% of 23,216 EU adults surveyed wanted EU member states to adopt additional measures for animal welfare standards during slaughter.
The animal protection lobby group called the decision made Thursday "a historic day for animals."
"It is now clear that our society doesn't support animals to unduly suffer at the most critical time of their lives," said Eurogroup for Animals CEO Reineke Hameleers in a statement. "Reversible stunning makes it possible to successfully balance the apparently competing values of religious freedom, and the concern for animal welfare under EU law. Acceptance of pre-slaughter stunning by religious communities is increasing both in EU and non-EU countries. Now it's time for the EU to make pre-slaughter stunning always mandatory in the next revision of the Slaughter Regulation."
The case arose from the Flemish government implementing a ban on slaughtering without stunning through a decree last year.
"The decree at issue in the main proceedings allow a fair balance to be struck between the importance attached to animal welfare and the freedom of Jewish and Muslim believers to manifest their religion," the judgment concluded.
After the CJEU's decision to uphold the ban in the Flemish and Wallonia regions of Belgium, Chief Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt, president of the Conference on European Rabbis released a statement.
"We are told by European leaders that they want Jewish communities to live and be successful in Europe, but they provide no safeguards for our way of life," Goldschmidt said in the statement. "Europe needs to reflect on the type of continent it wants to be. If values like freedom of religion and true diversity are integral, then the current system of law does not reflect that and needs to be urgently reviewed."
The next step is for the case to go to the Flanders' constitutional court to confirm the CJEU's ruling.