Lithuanian parliament passes draft motion to keep shechitah legal

(JTA) — The Lithuanian parliament passed a draft amendment aimed at preventing the outlawing of kosher slaughter.

The amendment submitted by Vytautas Gapsys, a lawmaker for the country’s Labor party, would benefit the “export of meat to Israel and Arab countries, which are new opportunities,” Gapsys told the news website obzor.lt on Tuesday.

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Fifty-one lawmakers in the 141-seat parliament voted in favor of the motion on kosher slaughter, or shechitah, and two against, with seven abstentions.

”There are certain requirements that are put forward, and the animals must be slaughtered while conscious, according to certain religious beliefs,” he added.

Muslim and Jewish religious laws require animals be conscious at the time of their slaughter — a practice which  is forbidden in seven European countries and deemed cruel by some animal rights activists.

The draft amendment passed in Lithuania comes months after a court ruling on ritual slaughter in Poland paralyzed that country’s $500-million for-export industry of kosher and halal meat, which had been allowed to operate based on a government regulation from 2004.

In November, the Polish Constitutional Court ruled that the regulation was unconstitutional in response to a petition filed by animal rights activists. Ritual slaughter became illegal in Poland in January.

Lithuania currently allows religious slaughter without prior stunning, as required by Muslim and Jewish religious laws, under certain conditions. The custom is forbidden in Poland, Latvia, Sweden and parts of Finland, according to the 2010 DialRel report on slaughter in the European Union. Norway, Switzerland and Iceland also forbid such slaughter.

“We have not seen limitations imposed and we are pleased with that,” said Faina Kulkiansky of the Jewish Community of Lithuania.