Lobbying from animal rights groups campaigning against practices used in traditional Jewish and Islamic ritual animal slaughter have led to Poland's Constitutional court to reinforce an existing law that could see to these practices being outlawed.
The Jewish shechita is the ritual slaughter of animals in accordance with Jewish kosher laws, which stipulate that the animals have to be killed “with respect and compassion” by the swift slitting of the animals throat whilst the animal is still conscious. Due to lobbying by animal rights group a Polish constitutional tribunal ruling that such slaughter practices, which Jews and Muslims employ, was unconstitutional. This has led to considerable disgruntlement amongst Jewish communities given the size of the Polish kosher meat industry (it is said to supply some one-fifth of kosher meat consumed in France and Israel). The chairman of Shechita UK was quoted as stating that this development “is a threat to Jewish life.” (The Jewish Chronicle, November 29, 2012)
Jewish and Muslim groups earlier this year also felt their respective religious freedoms were being infringed upon in Germany last year when a court ruling proposing the outlawing of circumcision of young boys on medical grounds.
The European Jewish association has branded this ruling as “devastating to Jewish welfare and freedom of religion." Aryeh Goldberg of the Rabbinical Centre issued a statement in which the following was said about this development:
“While it may not be their intention, those who seek to proscribe Jewish traditions in general and shechitah in particular are reminding the Jewish community of far darker times. We call on the Polish government to find a legal caveat which will ensure the continuation of shechitah, which is such an important part of Jewish life … all over the world and particularly in Poland.”
“Darker times” is a clear reference to the years when Poland was under Nazi occupation and used as the site of the ghastly Nazi death camps that exterminated millions of Jews. This saw to the virtual elimination of the once relatively large Jewish community that existed there before the outbreak of the war.
Piotr Kadlcik of the Union of Jewish Communities of Poland was quoted as saying that he believes that, “The outrageous atmosphere in the Polish media surrounding the shechitah reminds me precisely of the similar situation in Poland and Germany in the 1920s and 1930s. The style of these media reports was really similar: the (allegations of) disgusting practices and big business for a certain group of people. The tribunal may have felt obliged to react more promptly given this kind of hue and cry.” (Reuters, November 28, 2012)
In Der ewige Jude (The Eternal Jew), an old Nazi propaganda film, Jewish ritual slaughter is portrayed as a sadistic and inhumane process that sees to Jews rejoicing in an animals inhumane suffering during the course of shechitah. The depiction of the shechitah process in this movie was, to say the least, grossly inaccurate.
Jewish groups strongly contend that the practice doesn't cause the animal being slaughtered any needless pain.
Whether or not this law will have serious effect or if is even implemented has yet to be seen since EU legislation does allow Jewish and Muslim slaughter practices. It has yet to be seen whether national law in Poland or EU legislation will ultimately take precedence on this issue. Since, on January 1st of next year this law will to be implemented, the same day an EU directive will outline lawful practices for all EU countries regarding the lawfulness of producing kosher and halal meats for respective Islamic and Jewish communities in states of the union. (AFP, November 28, 2012)