Daily Israel Report

Even After EU Vote, European Shechita Still in Danger

Despite EU Parliament's vote to legalize shechita, the Jewish method of humane animal slaughter could be banned in the EU by next week.
By Hillel Fendel
First Publish: 5/8/2009, 11:52 AM

Despite the EU Parliament's vote Wednesday to legalize “shechita,” the Jewish method of humane animal slaughter is still very much in danger.

It was reported on Thursday that the European Jewish Community “hailed” the European Parliament’s vote to legalize the traditional Jewish method of slaughter into European law. However, it was later clarified that in fact, the Parliament only has consultative status in this case, and that the European Union’s Council of Agricultural Ministers will have the final say when it convenes next month.
"During the original debate on this issue in Norway, one of the parliamentarians said straight out, 'If they don't like it, let them go live somewhere else.'"

Shechita,” as the Jewish method of animal slaughter is referred to in Hebrew, is currently forbidden in Norway, Sweden, Finland, Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania; Switzerland permits shechita for poultry only. Switzerland and Norway are not member nations of the EU.

Though the EU Parliament vote represents a significant victory for the coalition of the European Jewish Congress, as well the Conference of European Rabbis and Shechita EU, the fight is far from over. The Parliament resolved only to “introduce laws” that would be binding across Europe to allow animal slaughter "in accordance with religious rites.”

However, the final text of the proposed amendment to EU law will be brought before the above-mentioned Council in June – but not necessarily in a manner favorable to Jewish interests. The Council, which will convene on June 22-23 in Brno, Czech Republic, will vote on a proposal to require that all animals be pre-stunned before slaughter.

If the regulation passes, EU Member States would ban a practice that has been governed by halakhah (Jewish Law) and observed by Jews for thousands of years. Pre-stunning is forbidden by Jewish Law, and thus a ban on kosher slaughter in the European Union may be a reality as of next month.

A spokesperson for the European Jewish Congress, which has been spearheading efforts to legalize shechita all across Europe, confirmed to Israel National News that “only if the Council decides to pass exactly the same proposal as amended by the Parliament will this change of legalization take place.”  The spokesperson further acknowledged that though the Council must take the Parliament vote into account, it is “unlikely” that the same vote will pass in the Council.
Melchior: "...no coincidence that one of the first things Nazi Germany forbade was kosher slaughter.”

"The regulation must not be drafted to allow Governments in Europe to threaten our culture and our freedom to observe our religion," said Philip Carmel of the Conference of European Rabbis. "We will be working very closely with Member States to achieve a satisfactory outcome for all Jewish communities in Europe when they agree upon the final text in June." 

Rabbi Michael Melchior, former chief rabbi of Norway and a former Knesset Member, has said that kosher slaughter is more humane than the more common methods of animal slaughter. "The shechitah process ensures that the animal loses consciousness immediately," he explained. "We have been dealing with this issue for many years, and there are many scientific studies that back us up."

The anti-shechita campaign has been viewed as anti-Semitic by many Jews in Europe.  When Holland outlawed the kosher slaughter of large bulls in 2002, Rabbi Melchior responded, "They simply don't want foreigners, and they don't want Jews. I won't say this is the only motivation, but it's certainly no coincidence that one of the first things Nazi Germany forbade was kosher slaughter.”

“I also know,” the rabbi said, “that during the original debate on this issue in Norway, where shechitah has been banned since 1930, one of the parliamentarians said straight out, 'If they don't like it, let them go live somewhere else.'"