EU organic logo may not be placed on meat from animals that have been slaughtered in accordance with religious rites if not first stunned

By Veronica Webster

04-2019

The Court of Justice of the EU, in case C-497/17, Oeuvre d’assistance aux bêtes d’abattoirs (OABA) v Ministre de l'Agriculture et de l'Alimentation and Others delivered on February 26, 2019, confirmed that the EU organic production logo may not be placed on meat products from animals that were slaughtered in accordance with religious rites without first being stunned.

The EU organic food logo identifies products which have been produced in accordance with the EU organic production regulations. In order to attach the logo to a particular product, strict rules must be followed in relation to soil fertility, plant health, animal wellbeing and the product supply chain, among others.  The EU has passed new legislation that will come into force on 1 January 2021.

In the OABA case, the issue was whether animals slaughtered without pre-stunning in accordance with Muslim religious law and that were certified "halal" could still be described as originating from "European organic farming".

The Court administrative d’appel de Versailles asked the CJEU for its interpretation of applicable legislation (specifically, Council Regulation (EC) Nos 834/2007, 889/2008 and 1099/2009). The Court observed that the objective of the Regulations is to keep animal suffering to a minimum during the entire life of the animals, including during the slaughtering process.  The Court acknowledged that slaughter pre-stunning is not a method expressly referred to in Regulations 834/2007 and 889/2008 which address animal welfare. However, Regulation No 1099/2009 provides that animals shall be spared any avoidable pain, distress or suffering during their slaughter, and that animals shall only be killed after stunning.

The Court concluded that the EU organic logo is not authorised for products derived from animals that have been slaughtered in accordance with religious law without first being stunned.

It is important to note, however, that animal slaughter carried out in accordance with religious law is not prohibited in the EU and the CJEU explained that this was on the basis of freedom of religion.