Poland Bans Religious Animal Slaughter, Jews and Muslims Angry

| by Phyllis M Daugherty

A top court in Poland ruled this week that the ritual slaughter of animals by religious groups violates the country’s constitution and animal-protection laws, reports This decision followed presentation of a petition brought by animal-welfare groups.

The constitutional court in Poland ruled that kosher slaughter methods, which involve killing livestock while they are still conscious, violates a 2004 government directive which enshrined ritual slaughter as unconstitutional.

The court found regulations that allow animals to have their throats cut and to subsequently be left to bleed to death without prior stunning to be against a 1997 Polish law that slaughter should only “follow the loss of consciousness” after stunning and that the Agricultural Minister did not have the authority to issue such regulations in the first place.

In most countries, stunning is believed to be more humane and is required prior to slaughter. However, there are many exemptions for religious slaughter, where Muslims and Jews argue that animals feel no pain. Animal advocates believe notstunning causes severe suffering and stress to animals who are conscious through the process.

Critics of the ruling are concerned about what message it will send about religious tolerance and how it will affect exports of kosher and halal meat.

"Poland may need to change its laws on animal welfare in order to preserve ritualized Kosher and Halal slaughter," the country's Ministry of Agriculture said.


The Jewish community in Poland was angered at the potential new laws that would make it illegal to kill an animal without first stunning it. Many have stated that this is akin to an attack on their religion.

Poland has about 6,000 Jews and 25,000 Muslims, according to the European Jewish Congress and U.S. State Department estimates.

The country’s-export industry of kosher and halal meat is worth approximately $259 million, according to the French news agency AFP, with kosher exports accounting for 20 percent, according to Piotr Kadlcik, president of the Union of Jewish Communities in Poland. Piotr Kadlcik, said, “We will be fully satisfied when shechita (kosher slaughter) is legal again.”

London-based Islamic leader Sheikh Usman Pranjet told in an email that he believes the push to end Islamic halal slaughter is an attempt to force Muslims out of Poland.

“It is a blatant excuse to attack Muslims in the name of animal rights, because we know that this is the most humane way of slaughter,” he argued. “And this is what Islam tells Muslims to do.”


However, others, including Muslim animal-welfare activist Sanjeev Mohamed, argued that in today’s modern world, there is no need to maintain “archaic methods” that do unwanted harm and cause suffering.

“We live in a time when technology and advancements have made animal welfare an important issue, and we Muslims need to reexamine the way we treat animals,” Mohamed said.

The agriculture ministry said in a statement it “has taken actions to prepare legal solutions,” that would amend the current animal protection law and allow the practice [of not stunning the animal] to continue legally,” reports the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

The statement also said that Poland intended to implement Regulation 1099, which is effective on January 1, 2013. This is a set of rules drawn up by the European Union that is meant to legalize ritual slaughter in the EU’s 27 member states. Countries are not compelled to implement the rules or may implement them partially.

According to Poland’s Agriculture Minister Stanislaw Kalemba, the EU law will take precedence and remove any doubts about the legality of ritual slaughter in Poland, reports the BBC.

Animal advocates still see the court’s ruling as a victory and are arguing that Poland may still be able to request an exemption from the EU law.

British ministers reportedly have sought to ensure that meat slaughtered using Islamic (halal) methods cannot be sold without proper labeling, which indicates that slaughter method may be “cruel,” reports.

“It’s up to us to decide whether we want a law authorizing this kind of slaughter or not,” Dariusz Gzyra of the campaign group Empatia told the AFP.

Warning: Graphic video comparing stunning versus halal slaughter methods”