'Important part of Jewish life.' Shechita Photo courtesy of nvironmental Protection Ministry
Polish court bans ritual slaughter
Country's top court rules key tenet of Jewish and Muslim faiths illegal, but government insists new EU rules will still allow practice. 'Those seeking to proscribe Jewish traditions are reminding us of far darker times,' says rabbi
VIDEO - Poland's top court Tuesday ruled that the ritual slaughter of animals, a key tenet of the Jewish and Muslim faiths, was illegal, but the government insisted that new EU rules would still allow the practice.
The Constitutional Court's ruling appeared largely symbolic, as it enters into force on January 1, the same day it is overridden by a European Union directive setting common rules for the production of kosher and halal meat across the 27-nation bloc.
"It's up to us to decide whether we want a law authorising this kind of slaughter or not," Dariusz Gzyra of the campaign group Empatia told AFP.
The Rabbinical Center of Europe (RCE) called on the Polish government to find a solution which allows for the endurance of shechita (Jewish ritual slaughter) in Poland.
“This ruling is unacceptable from a moral and ethical point of view,” Rabbi Aryeh Goldberg, deputy director of the RCE said in reaction to the ruling.
“We call on the Polish government to find a legal caveat which will ensure the continuation of shechita, which is such an important part of Jewish life in all over world and particularly in Poland.”
“While it may not be their intention, those who seek to proscribe Jewish traditions in general and shechitah in particular are reminding the Jewish community of far darker times,” Rabbi Goldberg said.
“We hope this issue will be resolved as soon as possible because it is sending an ominous message to the Jewish community which has managed to rebuild itself.”
Leading producer of kosher for export
Poland enacted legislation to allow ritual slaughter in 2004, the year the country entered the EU.
A 1997 law had banned slaughter without the prior stunning of animals, on humane grounds.
Both Jewish and Muslim clerics insist stunning is inconsistent with the rules of their faiths.
Poland's chief prosecutor turned to the Constitutional Court in June at the behest of animal rights groups.
The issue lacks the same politically tinged feel as in west European countries with large Muslim communities, were some opponents are accused of exploiting animal welfare campaigning for racist reasons.
Jews and Muslims represent a tiny minority of several tens of thousands in this overwhelmingly Catholic nation of 38 million.
But kosher meat in particular has a symbolic pull because Poland was Europe's Jewish heartland until Nazi Germany killed the vast majority of the community during World War II.
Poland is also a leading producer of both kosher and halal meat for export to other European countries.
The country is home to two dozen abattoirs specialised in kosher and halal slaughter, with the value of last year's exports estimated at €200 million ($259 million).