Polish MPs Poised to Keep Kosher Slaughter Legal

Poland would thus avoid the example of Sweden, Norway and Switzerland, which have made shehitah - slaughter under rabbinic law - illegal.

WARSAW - Despite lobbying by 63 international animal rights groups, Poland's parliament looks set to reject the effort of the opposition Palikot Movement to get kosher slaughter banned and will amend the law on protecting animals to allow ritual slaughter.

Poland would thus avoid the example of Sweden, Norway and Switzerland, which have made shehitah - slaughter under rabbinic law - illegal.

Shehitah forbids stunning an animal before slaughtering. The European Convention for the Protection of Animals for Slaughter, which went into effect on January 1, requires the stunning of farm animals before slaughter but allows member states to allow exemptions for religious practices.

Although the debate in the Sejm, the Polish parliament, is not over, legal experts say the legislature is almost certain to make a final decision before Passover in favor of ritual slaughter. Agriculture Minister Stanislaw Kalemba has announced that he supports kosher slaughter and has argued for it in parliament.

Shehitah will be conditioned on the slaughter taking place in slaughterhouses subject to inspection.

Poland's constitution does not allow the killing of animals without stunning them beforehand, but in 2004 the agriculture minister at the time issued a permit for both Jewish and Muslim ritual slaughter, and for years no one expressed objections.

In late November, however, Poland's Constitutional Court, responding to a petition by animal rights groups, ruled that the 2004 directive was unconstitutional.

The court ruling united Poland's small Jewish and Muslim communities in their calls to protect religious freedom. The religious groups also have the firm backing of farmers for whom the production of kosher and halal meat for export is a major source of income.

Alex Levac