Kosher Slaughter Ban Overturned in Poland

Landmark decision declares kosher slaughter constitutional in Poland; Rabbis hail 'precedent-setting' ruling.

Eliran Aharon , | updated: 7:12 PM

Rabbis hail lift on kosher slaughter ban in Poland
Rabbis hail lift on kosher slaughter ban in Poland
Moshe Friedman

"Kosher slaughter is permitted by the laws of Poland," the Polish High Court determined Wednesday. 

The landmark decision was a 9-5 majority ruling supporting a petition by the Chief Rabbi of Poland, Rabbi Michael Schudrich, and the Jewish community against the decision of the Minister of Agriculture of Poland banning kosher slaughter two years ago. 

The head of the panel, Judge Andrzej Zflinsky, issued a ruling stating that "religious freedom is a supreme value in accordance with the Constitution of Poland and stands above any other law and is not restricted."

In addition, two of the five judges who opposed agreed to allow ritual slaughter which would only serve the needs of the community and not for commercial purposes.

Quoting the constitutional court's Wednesday ruling, judge Maria Gintowt-Jankowicz said the constitution's "guarantee of religious freedom
comprises all activities, practices, rites and rituals of a religious character" like special types of slaughter, according to AFP.

Rabbi Michael Schudrich met with community leaders to discuss the ruling and said that he is "first and foremost thanking Hashem (G-d) for, of course, the great blessing that the decree was removed by Constitutional Court."

"I am proud to be a citizen of a country where freedom of religion is the top priority," he added. "My grandfather, of blessed memory ,had to leave the land of Poland under restrictions on the activities of the Jews a century ago, and I feel now that the circle has been closed." 

The Rabbi of Moscow, Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt said "We are very pleased to announced that slaughter can continue in Poland as it was throughout the ages in European Jewish communities. The consequences of the decision are important for both the global and European Jewish communities." He added that the ruling "set a precedent." 

Ritual slaughter has been banned in Poland since January 1, 2013, after the country's constitutional court once again ruled it illegal. A 1997 Polish law was the first to ban slaughter without the prior stunning of animals on humane grounds.

The court effectively scrapped and overrode a government regulation from 2004, when Poland joined the European Union, that exempted Jews and Muslims from the stunning requirement. Stunning is inconsistent with the rules of slaughter of both Judaism and Islam, which requires the animal to be conscious. 

The Jewish and Muslim communities each number around 20,000 to 30,000 people in the country of 38 million people. Prior to the ban, Polish butchers had exported up to 350 million euros ($435 million) worth of kosher and halal meat a year.