kosher slaughter shehitta
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The Polish Constitutional Tribunal announced Monday that it will hold a hearing on December 3 to discuss the country’s ban on ritual slaughter. 

The request to have the case reviewed by the Tribunal was filed over a year ago by the Union of Jewish Religious Communities in Poland (JRCP). 

“We hope that the Tribunal will rule on the admissibility of Jewish ritual slaughter on Polish territory," Piotr Kadlcik, president of JRCP told Jewish Telegraphic Agency. "This will eliminate confusion as to the legality or illegality of this kind of slaughter."

"It also will eliminate rumors that the slaughter is done somewhere illegally," he added. "We want it to be done according to religious principles and practices of openness and transparency.”

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 stunting requirement. 

Stunning is inconsistent with the rules of slaughter of both Judaism and Islam, which requires the animal to be conscious. 

As a result of the controversy surrounding the issue, the Tribunal asked for the opinion of the Sejm (Polish Parliament), and the Prosecutor General’s Office.

According to the Sejm, ritual slaughter performed for the needs of a religious community in Poland is legal, and the person performing the slaughter cannot be punished by law. The Prosecutor General’s Office disagreed, saying that “the slaughter of animals, provided by religious rites, is not permitted.”

On March 5, 2014, the National Council of Agricultural Chambers in Poland, filed a bill arguing for a law which would legalize ritual slaughter. Parliament is to take up the project following Constitutional Tribunal’s ruling. 

An initial attempt to reinstate ritual slaughter was struck down by Sejm in July 2013, angering the Jewish and Muslim communities as well as farmers and exporters of meat towards Israel and Muslim countries.

However, recent support from the Catholic Church, backing the right of Jews and Muslims to carry out their religious practices, could influence the upcoming hearing and Parliament decision. 

The Presidium of the Polish Episcopal Conference issued a statement in early October stating that practice of slaughter without the stunning of the animal, known in Hebrew as shekhita, is "an expression of religious faith and embodies religious freedom." 

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