The World Jewish Congress welcomed a statement by the Polish Parliament, the Sejm, saying that kosher slaughter of animals is permitted in Poland if performed for the needs of Jewish communities. Last July, the Sejm had voted against a government proposal that would have granted a general exemption for kosher and halal slaughter from the requirement to stun animals prior to killing them.
“The Sejm did the right thing by clarifying the murky legal situation of kosher slaughter in Poland and by backing shechita for local communities’ consumption,” said WJC CEO Robert Singer. “We hope this statement will help to put to rest the controversy over shechita – which Jews hold to be a crucial religious freedom.”
The Sejm said it still forbids kosher slaughter of animals for commercial and export purposes, according to media reports. For-export kosher meat was a worth US$ 500 million a year in Poland before the ban came into effect last year.
The legal status of religious slaughter of farm animals was plunged into uncertainty in November 2012 when the Constitutional Tribunal ruled that the government was acting in breach of the Constitution by allowing Jews and Muslims to slaughter animals without prior stunning on the basis of an exemption granted by the Agriculture Ministry. After the Sejm failed to vote in favor of a legal exemption, the Union of Jewish Religious Communities in Poland last year lodged a complaint with the Constitutional Tribunal in order to keep shechita legal in Poland, and the Sejm’s statement is one of three opinions to be considered by the high court soon.
The European Jewish Congress also welcomed the position paper. “We hope that the spirit of compromise which involves the safeguard of religious freedoms enshrined in the European Union will be an example for other nations which are seeking to ban Jewish practices,” EJC President Moshe Kantor said.