(photo credit: AP)
A new EU bill which aims to lessen the suffering of animals taken to slaughter has European rabbis and Jewish communities worried that shechita (ritual slaughter) in European nations could be outlawed altogether.
It has also led the Conference of European Rabbis (COE) to launch a campaign to amend the legislation.
The bill, which will be discussed by the EU's Council of Ministers in approximately two months, includes various clauses which seek to ensure more humane treatment of animals. One of these would allow member states to force cattle breeders to stun the animals before the slaughter - an act forbidden by Halacha.
This would create a situation in which shechita in the EU was not protected by law and could be declared illegal by any nation that chose to do so. These nations would also be free to forbid the importing of meat that did not comply with the standards of the new bill.
The bill has led Jewish leaders in Europe to mount a continent-wide effort to prevent the legislation from passing in its current form.
"We're working very hard now," Philip Carmel, the COE's international relations director, told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday. He said chief rabbis of member states were meeting with their respective agriculture ministers and other government officials to protest the bill.
"All of the rabbis in Europe are speaking to their governments. We hold meetings. We've met with the European Commission," he said. "Every agriculture minister has personal influence on this law."
He added that the COE was briefing rabbis and providing them with material, to ensure that a united message was being passed on across the map.
So far, the response in countries with large Jewish communities has been generally positive, Carmel said, noting that France in particular had recently made a strong effort in the EU to pressure other countries to accept the Jewish communities' position.
Others, however, such as Spain and the Scandinavian nations, were not as sympathetic, he added. And while the Jewish communities had the backing of the European Parliament on the issue, it did not have a final say and was only functioning in an advisory capacity.
The final decision, Carmel said, would be reached in June. In the meantime, he added, it was encouraging to see the cooperation between the various European Jewish communities.
"When Jews are in trouble, they work together," he said. "It's admirable."