Poland tries to calm dispute over kosher animal slaughter

WARSAW Sat Dec 1, 2012 12:50am IST

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WARSAW (Reuters) - Poland is to draft new laws so that it does not have to stop slaughterhouses from producing kosher meat, a prospect that has angered the Jewish community in the country where Nazi Germany massacred millions of Jews during World War Two.

The constitutional court ruled this week that kosher slaughter methods, which involve killing livestock while they are still conscious, contravened a Polish law which states animals must be stunned before slaughter.

The agriculture ministry said in a statement it "has taken actions to prepare legal solutions," that would amend the current animal protection law and allow the practice to continue legally.

"I believe this it is the only way to get out of the current legal impasse," said Piotr Kadlcik, the head of the Union of Jewish Communities of Poland. "We will be fully satisfied when shechita (kosher slaughter) is legal again."

Some Polish abattoirs have been slaughtering animals without stunning them for Jewish customers and also for Muslims, whose halal butchery techniques are similar.

They were able to do this because the government had issued a ministerial decree waiving the requirement that livestock be stunned, but the court said the waiver was unlawful and would no longer apply from December 31 this year.

The case was referred to the court after representations from animal rights activists, who say kosher and halal slaughter practices are unnecessarily cruel.

Jewish groups said the ruling threatened their right to freely practice their faith. Some Jewish community leaders said the tone of the debate around the issue echoed the kind of anti-Semitic rhetoric seen in Europe before World War Two.

Poland was home to Europe's largest Jewish community before the outbreak of war in 1939, but the Holocaust all but wiped it out. Nazi concentration camps including Auschwitz and Treblinka were located on Polish soil.

The Polish dispute over kosher meat has echoes of a case in neighboring Germany this year.

There, a court ruling outlawing circumcision of young boys on medical grounds raised an outcry from Jews and Muslims, who said it curtailed their religious freedom. The German ruling is to be overturned by new legislation.

(Reporting by Marcin Goettig; Writing by Christian Lowe; Editing by Sophie Hares)

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