Jean-Claude Juncker said that ritual slaughter of animals should be permitted in the European Union despite his personal reservations
Speaking in an interview on Euronews, the European Commission president gave his opinions on key issues affecting Muslims living in Europe.
Following the recent Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha, or Feast of the Sacrifice, Belgian YouTube star Abdel en Vrai asked Juncker about conflicting rules on ritual slaughter.
Despite EU law authorizing religious communities to practice freedom of worship, including ritual slaughters where animals are killed without being stunned first, he said Muslims in Belgium were unable to do so this year.
“On the one hand we’re being told that it’s prohibited to do slaughter at home for reasons of hygiene, which I understand, but there are very few abattoirs made available for Muslims so that they can do things according to their religion,” he explained.
In both the Muslim and Jewish faiths, religious texts set out traditional methods of slaughter in which a knife is used to kill the animal. Opponents of the practice believe that animals should be stunned beforehand.
Juncker said that following a debate last year in Belgium, he understood that structures would be put in place to allow people to exercise their faith.
While stressing that animal welfare was “extremely important” to him, he said European provisions allowing for ritual slaughter had to be accepted.
“I’m not a fan of this but I think we have to respect the traditions of religious communities,” he explained.
When asked whether he would launch infringement proceedings against countries not allowing ritual slaughter, Juncker said he had never thought about it but would look into the issue.
The EU diplomat was later asked by en Vrai about the discrimination of female Muslims who opt to wear the veil.
The YouTuber said women he knew were being discriminated against both during their studies and when looking for jobs, with opportunities denied to them because of the “principle of neutrality.”
“We don’t want second class women in Europe just because they wear the veil,” he told the European Commission president.
“I don’t see how wearing a veil could offend other religious sensitivities, how it could prevent you from going to an office meeting or working in a factory,” Juncker responded, adding that issues come when women wear the burka, a garment covering the whole body from head to feet.
“As for wearing the veil, I don’t see why we should ban this religious sign.”
Juncker advised anyone feeling targeted on the labour market for wearing the veil to raise the principle of “non-discrimination” with a judge.
“An employer who refuses to employ a woman wearing the veil would be found to be in the wrong.”