Polish Jews to turn to Constitutional Court over slaughter ban

Polish law requires that animals be stunned before slaughter; Polish Jews maintain Kosher slaughter is still legal.

July 23, 2013 21:00
2 minute read.
Cattle on the plain

Cattle521. (photo credit: Israel Weiss)

Poland’s Jewish community is preparing to go to their country’s Constitutional High Court to lift a ban on kosher slaughter that has been in effect since January, Chief Rabbi Michael Schudrich told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday.

Michael Boni, the Polish Administration and Digitization Minister requested leaders of the Jewish and Muslim communities file the motion. This advice comes after a government body studying the issue, appointed by Prime Minister Donald Tusk to find a solution to the ritual slaughter crisis, declined to give an opinion regarding the legality of the ban.

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“The only way to resolve this conflict between the rights of religious communities in Poland and this law is to ask the Constitutional Court for a ruling. Until the Constitutional Court makes a ruling, everyone should refrain from ritual slaughter, but at the same time, keep in mind the basic constitutional rights that the Polish Constitution guarantees religious minorities,” said Boni at a joint press conference held after a meeting with Schudrich and Muslim leader Mufti Tomasz Miskiewicz, on Monday.

The Government Legislation Center, a body that serves to clarify issues of Polish law and examined the matter of ritual slaughter at Boni’s request, found a conflict between the rights of minority groups and animal welfare concerns.

It added that the government wants to send the issue back to the Constitutional Tribunal.

Ritual slaughter in Poland ceased following a 2012 decision that exempting religious Muslims and Jews from a law requiring that animals be stunned before slaughter was “unconstitutional.”

Polish Jews maintain that kosher slaughter is legal under the 1997 Act on the Relation of the State to the Jewish Communities in Poland, which states that ritual slaughter may be performed in accordance with the needs of the local Jewish community.

Schudrich, who has continued slaughtering according to Jewish rites despite the ban, said that “this is the most difficult moment in Polish-Jewish relations for 24 years, since the fall of Communism.”

Speaking with the Post on Tuesday, Schudrich said that following the meeting, Jewish leaders consulted with lawyers and are now in the process of preparing themselves for litigation.

The Union of Jewish Communities of Poland, he said, will be taking Boni’s advice.

“Now it is going to the Constitutional High Court and we will have to see what happens there. And there is always also the possibility to resubmit a bill to the Parliament,” he said.

“We have to make it as strong a case as possible, quoting all the Polish laws that support our side.”

Asked what the chances were of having ritual slaughter reestablished in Poland, Schudrich replied that he happens to think that “we have a 100 percent chance but I don’t know what the high court thinks.”

JTA contributed to this report.

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