AJC Dismayed by Polish Parliament Ban on Religious Slaughter

Jul 12, 2013, 13:46 ET from American Jewish Committee

NEW YORK, July 12, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- AJC is dismayed by the endorsement of the Sjem, Poland's legislature, of a ban on the religious slaughter of animals. The Sjem, by a vote today of 222-178, rejected the government's proposal to reinstate recognition of the religious practice.

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"The first victims of this unconscionable Sjem action are Poland's Jewish community," said AJC Executive Director David Harris. "We urge Poland's legislative and judicial authorities to move expeditiously to recognize by law the Jewish community's right to prepare kosher meat according to Jewish tradition."

The government had recognized, in 2004, the Jewish practice of religious slaughter of animals, known as shehita, in its agreement on relations with the Jewish community.  When subsequent legislation was adopted mandating the use of electronic stunning equipment before an animal is killed—a practice not permitted under Jewish law—the Jewish community was granted an administrative exemption. However, last November a court ruled the exemption unconstitutional.

The Sjem vote today was on a government proposal to reinstate the 2004 exemption.

Polish Jewish leaders blame the defeat primarily on partisan political infighting, but also believe anti-Jewish sentiments among some Parliamentarians contributed to it.

A constitutional tribunal must now resolve the conflict between the government's and parliament's position. If the ban is upheld, then the Sjem must again take up the legislation.

"It would be beyond shocking if a democratic Poland prevented kosher slaughter, which is so integral to Jewish life in the country," Harris said.

SOURCE American Jewish Committee