Jewish Journalist Announces Belgium Parliament Bid, Seeks Reversal of Slaughter Ban

Editor in chief of Belgium's largest Jewish newspaper, expected to be the country's first Orthodox lawmaker, 'decided to take the plunge' after ban on kosher slaughtering of animals went into effect

File photo: A Jewish man walks by a food store in Antwerp, Belgium, January 16, 2015.
Virginia Mayo/AP

The longtime editor in chief of Belgium’s largest Jewish newspaper has announced he is resigning and running for parliament, partly in a bid to reverse recent bans in the country on the slaughter of conscious animals for meat.

Michael Freilich, 38, who has edited the Antwerp-based Joods Actueel monthly for 12 years, said prior to his announcement Monday that he was joining the New Flemish Alliance center-right party, the largest in the federal parliament.

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The party has placed Freilich in the fifth slot of its ticket for the May 26 regional elections, all but ensuring that Freilich will become a lawmaker in the Chamber of Representatives, the lower house. A victory would make him the first Orthodox Jew to serve there.

Referring to the ban, which went into effect on January 1 in his Flemish Region, Freilich told JTA, “That was indeed one of the reasons I decided to take the plunge” and enter politics.

Both the Jewish and Muslim faiths require animals be conscious when they are killed for meat. The ban has put several abattoirs out of business.

The Belgian Walloon region’s identical ban will go into effect later this year.

One of the reasons the ban passed, Freilich said, was because “proper follow-up by the Jewish community of the process of legislation was mismanaged.” He said following the process “from the seat of power means far fewer surprises and more opportunities to intervene before doing so becomes too late.”