May 18, 2009

European Jews Expect Continued Challenges to Schechita

London…Fresh from its recent victory in the European Union's parliament, European Jewish leaders predict renewed efforts by schechita antagonists in the years to come to ban schechita. The EU parliament passed a new bill meant to ensure kosher animal slaughter across the continent. The amendment was passed in order to avoid and prevent unnecessary animal cruelty, as well as to ensure the freedom of religious practices throughout Europe, and did not place any restrictions on Europe's Jewish communities' custom of kosher slaughter. While rabbis saw this as a victory for schechita as a humane form of slaughter, they predict that animal rights fanatics will continue their campaign to outlaw the religious practice. The hearing saw some of the parliament's liberal and green parties' members call for banning kosher slaughter, as well as for a ban on importing meat from any European country which will not enforce the amendment, but their motion was denied. The proposal was quashed largely thanks to the efforts of the European Jewish Congress and the Conference of European Rabbis. Both groups called the issue "critical to freedom of religion in Europe. The Conference of European Rabbis did note, however, that it still had to fight to ensure that the new law, which still has to pass a final vote in June, will not include any demand to stun animals used in religious slaughter.

Several Jewish leaders said that they were encouraged by the “extraordinary unity” amongst European Jews, which they say resulted in the victory. But some expect schechita to constantly appear on the agenda of the EU parliament as well as the legislative houses of individual countries. Said one Jewish leader: “In many circles opposition to schechita is the litmus test of the new liberalism sweeping Europe, a liberalism that is highly inconsistent but prevalent nonetheless.”