Polich Chief Rabbi Michael Schudrich 370.
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Jewish leaders in Poland this week dismissed calls by the Brussels-based
European Jewish Association for the government of Poland to immediately
reinstate shechita, ritual slaughter, without waiting for a ruling from the
country’s Constitutional Court.
Last week, EJA directorgeneral Rabbi
Menachem Margolin announced that his organization had submitted a legal opinion
to the Agriculture Ministry asserting that “the ritual slaughter ban was adopted
in violation of the European law that requires formal notification of the EU
Commission for a legislation that contravenes EU regulation.”
Margolin told the European Jewish Press he is hopeful the government will “now
adopt the legal opinion formulation and cancel the Polish parliament
Ritual slaughter in Poland ceased following a 2012 ruling that
a 2004 exemption for Muslims and Jews from an animal protection statute law
requiring that animals be stunned before slaughter was
The EJA’s argument revolves around European Council
regulation 1099/2009, a set of guidelines for slaughter that came into effect
across Europe on the first of the year. EC 1099/2009 requires pre-stunning
before slaughter but provides an exemption for religious slaughter. European
Union member states observing “national rules aimed at ensuring more extensive
protection of animals at the time of killing” were permitted to maintain such
local laws, provided that they informed the EC before the new regulations took
“The EU laws [and] regulations allow exemptions for religious
reasons,” Margolin told The Jerusalem Post on Monday. To gain an exemption a
state must “ask in advance in a specific way, which was not done [properly] by
the Polish, which means the Polish parliament cannot take independent decisions
against the EU regulations.”
While an official from the Polish
Agriculture Ministry did inform the EC of his country’s derogation before the
end of December 2012, the EJA maintains that the letter was not sufficient and
thus that European law overrides local Polish regulations.
For a more
stringent local law to become the basis of a national derogation, EJA spokesman
Asher Gold said, it must either be in effect prior to the new European rules
coming into effect or be subsequently enacted.
However, he said, as
parliament had not amended the law to allow for religious slaughter without
prior stunning by January 1 as mandated by the Constitutional Court, the Polish
law banning ritual slaughter only truly came into effect on the same day as
1099/2009, making it ineligible for consideration under the EC regulation’s
Jewish activists in Poland involved in legal efforts
to overturn the ban reacted incredulously to Margolin’s assertion that the
government will accept his arguments and very soon “reinstate ritual slaughter
immediately, without the need for a further discussion in the Polish Parliament
nor a ruling from the Constitutional Tribunal on whether the ban violates
religious freedom in the country.”
“I approached a member of the
government around eight months ago to check to see if the letter sent by the
Ministry of Agriculture in December to the EU was in fact sent correctly,”
Polish Chief Rabbi Michael Schudrich told the Post. “The answer I received... is
that the letter was valid.”
“What is now being said is nothing new. If
the letter is invalid, this must be declared by the EU,” he stated.
would imagine that even if a prime minister would attempt [to strike down a law
passed by the legislature], he would be immediately be given a vote of no
confidence and lose the prime ministership,” the American-born chief rabbi
added, noting that “in a democracy, the government cannot cancel a decision of
“Three weeks ago, we submitted a petition to the
Constitutional Tribunal to confirm the religious rights guaranteed by the Polish
constitution. We have full confidence that the tribunal will positively resolve
this issue,” said Schudrich.
Jewish activists from the Polish Jewish
community believe that while the 2004 exemption granting an exemption from the
requirement for prior stunning was struck down, that did not mean that Poland’s
animal welfare statute did not hold the force of law until 2013.
government doesn’t have the power to overturn a law,”Jonathan Ornstein, the
executive director of the Jewish Community Center in Krakow, told the Post. “In
a democracy you can’t just say we don’t like this law, so we will ignore it.
That’s why there is a court.”
Margolin just “doesn’t understand
parliamentary” governance, he said.
The Polish Agriculture Ministry did not respond to a request for comment.