Polish court rules Shechitah ban unconstitutional

Cnaan Liphshiz

(JTA) — A Polish court ruled that the de-facto ban imposed last year on slaughter without stunning of animals was unconstitutional.

A majority of five out of the nine justices who reviewed the ban at the Polish Constitutional Tribunal Wednesday ruled it ran contrary to the country’s constituion, the European Jewish Association, a Brussels-based lobby group that has fought to scrap the ban, said in a statement.

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The court ruled the ban violated the European Convention on Human Rights and led to “discrimination in social and economic life of Jews in Poland,” polska.newsweek.pl reported.

The Union of Jewish Religious Communities in Poland filed a petition over a year ago to have the case reviewed by the Constitutional Tribunal.

Ritual slaughter was banned in Poland, effective as of January 1, 2013, after the country’s constitutional court scrapped a government regulation that exempted Jews and Muslims from a law requiring the stunning of animals prior to slaughter. Muslim and Jewish ritual slaughter, or shechitah, requires that animals be conscious before their necks are cut. The Tribunal then asked for the opinion of the Sejm, or Parliament, and the Prosecutor General’s Office.

According to the Sejm, ritual slaughter for the needs of the Jewish community in Poland is legal, and the person performing the slaughter cannot be punished. The Prosecutor General’s Office has a different opinion, which says that “the slaughter of animals, provided by religious rites, is not permitted.”

Before the ban, Poland used to have a $500 million industry of halal and kosher meat for export.

In July last year a draft bill aimed at legalizing ritual slaughter failed to pass in Polish parliament.

On March 5, 2014 KRIR, or the National Council of Agricultural Chambers in Poland, filled in Poland’s Sejm a bill on the Law on slaughter which would legalize ritual slaughter. Parliament will take up this project after the Constitutional Tribunal’s judgment.

Rabbi Menachem Margolin, director of the European Jewish Association, said the ruling Wednesday was a “relief” because it “prevents a dangerous precedent that would have affected all European Jewry.”