The European Union Council of Agricultural Ministers officially recognized shechitah – Jewish kosher slaughter – on Monday. The Council voted not only to recognize shechitah, but also to require that kosher meat be traded and sold freely in every EU member state.
However, individual states may still reserve the right to "invoke stricter guidelines" regarding shechitah. Thus, the five EU countries that currently ban Jewish slaughter – Finland, Sweden, Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia – will apparently not have to change their laws.
Aba Dunner, Executive Director of the Conference of European Rabbis, explained the vote: "The [new] regulation specifically exempts religious communities from the requirement to pre-stun animals in the slaughter process. It also contains no requirements for discriminatory labeling for meat slaughtered using the shechitah method, nor for post-cut stunning to be enforced.”
“Furthermore,” Dunner said, “no member state will be able to prevent meat slaughtered according to the Jewish religious method from being traded in its territory.”
"The European Jewish Congress (EJC), the Conference of European Rabbis and Shechita EU have been working closely together to achieve these positive outcomes,” noted EJC president Dr. Moshe Kantor.
Kantor said, “The European Jewish Congress is delighted that the new EU regulation ensures that communities in member states that slaughter animals for food according to humane Jewish law will be able to continue doing so. This regulation protects the fundamental rights of Europe’s religious minorities.”
Must Remain Vigilant
“At the same time,” Kantor added, “we must remain vigilant to ensure that individual governments do not seek to impose new requirements on religious slaughter.”
The vote was the result of intense negotiations, which led to the compromise allowing individual countries to enforce stricter regulations. On the other hand, the EJC succeeded in including the clause recognizing shechitah as legitimate, and removing clauses outlawing trade in kosher meat, labelling, and pre-stunning.