Slaughter ban splits Polish Jews, Muslims

According to the EJA, arguments contained in the petition are similar to those presented to the Polish Ministry of Agriculture in September.

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November 29, 2013 06:23
3 minute read.
Poland's Chief Rabbi Michael Schudrich in his office, November 3, 2013.

Poland's chief rabbi Michael Schudrich 370. (photo credit: Sam Sokol)

A coalition of Poland Muslims and Jews seeking to overturn a ban on religious slaughter split this week over a disagreement on strategy.

The Polish Constitutional Tribunal has accepted for review an appeal by the Union of Jewish Religious Communities in Poland on the slaughter ban, while the Muslim Religious Association of Poland has turned to the European Commission in an attempt spur outside intervention.

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Ritual slaughter without prestunning has been banned in Poland since the beginning of January and efforts by Prime Minister Donald Tusk to push through legislation allowing the practice have been rebuffed by parliament.

Ritual slaughter in Poland ceased following a 2012 ruling that a 2004 exemption for Muslims and Jews from an animal protection statute requiring that animals be stunned before slaughter was “unconstitutional.”

While new European Union regulations on slaughter that provided for the right of religious minorities to continue slaughtering according to their dietary laws came into effect earlier this year, Poland maintains that its ban is legal due to a clause allowing member states to enact more stringent animal protection laws.

However, Mufti Tomasz Mis´kiewicz of the Muslim Religious Association disagrees with the Polish argument.

Together with representatives of the Brussels-based European Jewish Association and the Polish meat industry, Mis´kiewicz submitted a petition to the EC on Wednesday asking for the body to invalidate the Polish proscription.

In a letter sent to Dacian Ciolos¸, European commissioner for agriculture and rural development, the petitioners decried what they called the “improper practices of the Republic of Poland” which they claimed “create uncertainty as to the ability to rely on directly applicable EU law.”

Mis´kiewicz did not answer calls for comment from The Jerusalem Post.

The European Jewish Association has been critical of Polish Jewry’s approach to the slaughter ban, blaming chief Rabbi Michael Schudrich for the failure of efforts to prevent it from coming into effect and calling for his resignation in July.

According to Asher Gold of the EJA, the arguments contained in Wednesday’s petition are similar to those presented to the Polish Ministry of Agriculture in September.

In that petition, the EJA argued that the Polish government had not properly notified the EC regarding its decision to derogate from the clauses of the law legalizing ritual slaughter.

“If there was a problem with the notification so the law which prohibits ritual slaughter from being done in Poland is a violation of EC regulations,” Gold told the Post on Thursday.

However, Schudrich disagreed, telling the Post in September that he had, in consultation with the Polish government, determined that the letter of notification was “valid.” “What is now being said is nothing new. If the letter is invalid, this must be declared by the EU,” he stated at the time.

Speaking with the Post on Thursday, the chief rabbi said that the Jewish community feels “confident” that the court will reinstate ritual slaughter.

While a decision is likely several months away, he said, he thinks that the underlying issue is simple.

“The constitution guarantees religious rights and freedoms.

There was a law in 2002 which requires prestunning which limits our rights and freedoms in Poland… that is the crux of the matter.”

Another law, passed in 1997, “ clearly states that the Jewish community is responsible for shechita,” he added.

Asked about the Mufti’s decision to work with the EJA rather than file suit with the local Jewish community as originally planned, Schudrich stated that they had spoken at length and that while they “had a difference of opinion,” they continue to be in close contact.

“Our approach has been that this is a polish domestic problem with implications outside of Poland. it is a domestic issue [and] we want to solve the problem within Poland,” Schudrich said.

The EJA has also filed suit before the constitutional tribunal, Gold told the Post.

“We believe that in order to find a solution all the possible ways have to be used,” he said. “It wasn't in conjunction with [Schudrich] because he refused to cooperate.”

JTA contributed to this report


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