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.
Fifty-one lawmakers in the 141-seat parliament voted
in favor of the motion on kosher slaughter, or shechita, and two against, with
“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
While Jewish organizations welcomed the draft resolution, the
local Jewish community warned against premature celebrations.
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
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.
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.
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.