Lithuanian lawmakers advance bid to keep ritual slaughter legal

Amendment to bill meant to encourage export of meat from Lithuania to Israel, Arab countries.

By JTA
October 17, 2013 22:29
2 minute read.
shechita ritual

DO NOT USE shechita ritual_311. (photo credit: Nati Shohat/Vosizneias.com)

The Lithuanian parliament passed in a first reading an amendment aimed at preventing the outlawing of kosher slaughter.

The amendment submitted by Vytautas Gapsys of the Labor party would benefit the “export of meat to Israel and Arab countries, which are new opportunities,” Gapsys told the news website obzor.lt on Tuesday.

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Fifty-one lawmakers in the 141-seat parliament voted in favor of the motion on kosher slaughter, or shechita, and two against, with seven abstentions.

“There are certain requirements that are put forward, and the animals must be slaughtered while conscious, according to certain religious beliefs,” Gapsys said.

The Lithuania amendment comes months after a court ruling on ritual slaughter in Poland paralyzed the country’s $500 million export industry of kosher and halal meat, which had been allowed to operate based on a government regulation from 2004. Ritual slaughter became illegal in Poland in January.

European law requires prior stunning but waives this condition in the case of ritual slaughter. However, national governments are permitted to impose stricter animal protection guidelines should they choose to do so.

Lithuania allows religious slaughter without prior stunning, as required by Muslim and Jewish religious laws, under certain conditions.

While Jewish organizations welcomed the draft resolution, the local Jewish community warned against premature celebrations.

“We have not seen limitations imposed and we are pleased with that,” said Faina Kulkliansky, chairwoman of the Jewish Community of Lithuania. However, she told The Jerusalem Post that celebrations by Jewish organizations that have issued glowing press statements may be premature.

“It’s only the draft, it’s not the law itself that has changed,” she said. “It would be very nice if the law would be changed but, as far as I understand, parliament only approved the draft on the changes, so it’s a long way until the law itself is changed.”

Shechita has heretofore not been a significant issue in Lithuania, Kulkliansky told the Post, and as such she was as surprised as anybody when the issue was raised in the legislature.

“We urge the Polish government to take note and we will continue to work with other countries urging them to follow Lithuania and introduce similar legislation,” Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt, president of the Conference of European Rabbis, said.

“We are delighted by the result of the first reading in the Seimas, it sends a very welcome signal that the tide may be turning against those who seek to ban and proscribe Jewish traditions in Europe,” Dr. Moshe Kantor, president of the Jewish Congress, said, praising the Lithuanian parliament.

“Lithuania’s lawmakers deserve praise for moving to protect this important religious freedom,” World Jewish Congress President Ronald Lauder said ahead of a visit to the country. “This sensible and progressive approach should be a model for neighboring countries examining this question.”

Lauder also praised Lithuania for the recent adoption of legislation for the restitution of Jewish communal property lost during the Holocaust.


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