Swiss lawmakers to vote on banning import of kosher, halal meat

Ban on import ritually slaughtered meat would make keeping kosher impossible in European state where shechitah has been illegal since 1894.



Lawmakers in Switzerland are set to vote on a bill proposing to outlaw the import of meat from ritual slaughter of animals, which is already illegal in the Alpine country.

The bill, which was submitted in June by Matthias Aebischer, a federal lawmaker for the Social-Democratic Party of Switzerland – the country’s second-largest political movement — prompted opposition because it proposes to outlaw importing foie gras. A delicacy made of goose liver that is particularly popular among French-speaking Swiss consumers, its production through forced feeding is widely considered cruel.

The debate on this issue, which divides the multinational Swiss state, has eclipsed the existence of a proposed ban also on importing any meat that is produced from animals who are not stunned prior to their slaughter, the Tages-Anzeiger daily reported Monday.

Shechitah, the Jewish ritual method of slaughtering animals, requires they be conscious when their throats are slit — a practice that critics say is cruel but which advocates insist is more humane than mechanized methods used in non-kosher abattoirs. Muslims slaughter animals in a similar method, albeit with fewer restrictions, to produce halal meat.

Herbert Winter, president of the Swiss Federation of Jewish Communities, told Tages-Anzeiger that if the law is passed, it will “be a massive limitation on the religious freedoms of Jews” In Switzerland, who according to the European Jewish Congress number approximately 18,000 people.

Shechitah for all animals except poultry has been illegal in Switzerland following legislation in 1894, which Winter’s federation of Jewish communities regards as anti-Semitic.

Earlier this week, Jewish groups and Israel’s foreign ministry reacted furiously to the posting of signs at a Swiss hotel that singled out Jewish guests, urging them to shower before entering the pool.

Since 2002, Switzerland has seen several failed attempts to extend its shechitah ban to include the import of such meat.

The Swiss Federal Council, which is the federal government, in 2016 said banning the import of meat from ritual slaughter would violate international trade agreements that Switzerland had signed.

In Europe, the Jewish and Muslim customs have united opponents both from liberal circles who cite animal welfare as their main concern and right-wing nationalists who view the custom as foreign to their countries’ cultures.