Poland's Jews Petition Court to Strike Down Ban on Kosher Slaughter

'We must and we will defend our rights, while at the same time preserve our good relations with the Polish government,' says Poland's chief rabbi.

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WARSAW − Poland’s Jewish community of plans to petition the country’s constitutional court in an effort to strike down the legislature’s decision to forbid kosher slaughter, Poland’s Chief Rabbi Michael Schudrich said Wednesday, after meeting with Polish Religious Affairs Minister Michal Boni.

Boni has been tasked by Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk with finding a legal solution to allow religious slaughter by the country’s Jewish and Muslim communities to continue. Grand Mufti of Poland Tomasz Miskiewicz also attended the meeting with Boni.

According to Article 34 of Poland’s 1997 Law on the Protection of Animals, “A vertebrate animal in a slaughterhouse may be killed only after being knocked unconscious by qualified personnel.” But the 1997 Act on the Relation of the State to the Jewish Communities in Poland states that ritual slaughter may be performed in accordance with the needs of the local Jewish community.

Both Muslim and Jewish religious laws require animals be conscious when they are slaughtered.

At a joint press conference after the meeting, Boni said Poland is examining the complex issue and is trying to settle the apparent conflict among the animal protection law, the Jewish communities law and the principle of freedom of religion guaranteed by the Polish constitution. He stressed, however, that at present kosher slaughter is prohibited, and he called on the Jewish community to refrain from performing it.

Schudrich, on the other hand, told the press conference, “The position of the Jewish community is that shehita [kosher slaughter] is not against Polish law, since the Jewish communities act is in force and no other law supersedes it.” He added, however, “This is a most difficult period. We must and we will defend our rights, while at the same time preserve our good relations with the Polish government.”

The Polish parliament two weeks ago voted down legislation that would have made kosher slaughter an exception to the animal rights law, causing a furor among Jewish communities around the world. That government-backed legislation was submitted after a Polish court ruled that shehita violated the animal rights law and could not be permitted by a ministerial decree.

“Under the circumstances created by the vote, we are examining the option of petitioning the Constitutional Court,” Schudrich said. “Many legal experts believe that the only way to resolve the conflict between the law and the rights of Poland’s religious communities is by petitioning the Constitutional Court and letting it rule on the matter. We will express our position in a most determined fashion and will bring most of the evidence from the Polish Constitution, which supports our position.” 

A slaughterer handling beef carcasses at a kosher slaughterhouse.Credit: Reuters

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