The European Parliament voted on Wednesday to recommend that the EU Council of Ministers legalize kosher animal slaughter (shechita). However the battle is not yet won, says Serge Cwajgenbaum, secretary general of the European Jewish Congress. The final text will come before the council next month, which can then pass an EU law on the matter. Shechita is currently banned in Sweden, Norway, Finland, Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania, while Switzerland permits it for poultry only. Though a majority of MEPs voted to recommend a law to allow animal slaughter "in accordance with religious rites," European Jewish groups, including the European Jewish Congress, will continue to lobby the 27 EU member states, Cwajgenbaum told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday. "It is still possible for things to change," he said. "We are going to continue to lobby country by country... They must support the European Parliament vote which quite clearly accepted the fact that shechita is in accordance with the religious rites of European citizens." Although legislation sanctioning shechita would be Europe-wide, EU law would not automatically supersede national laws prohibiting the practice. "The door [would be] open for obliging the country which forbid shechita to give their communities this right," explained Cwajgenbaum. "After the decision of the council, we'll see how we can start enacting the decision in countries that are not allowing the laws of shechita." Animal rights groups counter-petitioned MEPs to oppose the legislation, contending that shechita is cruel and inhumane. However, organizations such as Shechita EU maintain that the practice is more humane than other methods of animal slaughter. The European Jewish Congress is not alone in its lobbying efforts. Though the organization initiated the campaign, it has been in a coalition with the Conference of European Rabbis and Shechita EU. "What was remarkable is the joint effort of the different European Jewish organizations in Europe. This shows the good spirit among Jewish organizations when it comes to crucial and vital issues which could affect Jewish life in Europe," Cwajgenbaum said. Philip Carmel, international relations director of the Conference of European Rabbis, said in statement on Thursday: "The regulation must not be drafted to allow governments in Europe to threaten our culture and our freedom to observe our religion... We will be working very closely with member states to achieve a satisfactory outcome for all Jewish communities in Europe when they agree upon the final text in June."

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