Kosher slaughter is unconstitutional because it contradicts an animal rights law that was passed in 1952, Poland’s highest court ruled on Tuesday night, handing down a controversial decision that sparked debate among the Polish public. The appeal reached Poland’s Constitutional Court after a long struggle by public organizations that work to ensure that animals suffer as little as possible when slaughtered.
Caving in to pressure from meat exporters, in 1954 the agriculture minister decided to allow ritual slaughter, whose rules and requirements are nearly identical among both Jews and Muslims, despite the existence of the 1952 law against such practices.
This is not a case of anti-Semitism, since Poland has a tiny Jewish community and the demand for kosher food is minuscule. This week, after the Constitutional Court’s ruling, deputy agriculture minister Kazimierz Plocke declared“Religious slaughter has existed in Poland for hundreds of years and is accepted worldwide. There is freedom to practice religious rituals in our country, so this cannot be prohibited.”
This is not, however, solely about protecting the freedom of religious practice. Poland has at least 17 slaughterhouses that operate under both Jewish kashrut and Muslim halal supervision, and its annual exports of kosher and halal meat are estimated to reach $259 million, according to AFP. Exports are primarily targeted to the Arab countries, Turkey and also Israel.
Thus it is reasonable to assume that the new court ruling will not change the status quo. As of January 1, 2013, the European Union will permit slaughter in accordance with religious decrees in all member states. The decision on this matter has already been approved by the relevant institutions in Brussels. Countries that want to act differently must submit a detailed description of their reservations by the end of 2012, explaining why they should be exempt from the EU’s guidelines. Despite heavy pressure from public organizations, the Polish authorities have already announced that they have no intention of submitting such reservations.
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