December 29, 2014

Religious Freedom Guarantees Contrast Anti-Schechita Mood in Europe

LONDON — European countries dealing with attempts to curtail kosher slaughter (schechita) are faced with reconciling the demands of animal rights activists with constitutional guarantees of religious freedom. The constitutional guarantee ultimately was the reason a Polish court overturned a ban in that country.

Last week, Belgium’s Minister for Animal Welfare, Ben Weyts, advised the European Jewish Association (EJA), a Brussels-based umbrella group which represents Jewish communities across Europe, of his intention to “enforce in all aspects” a Belgian law facilitating the practice of ritual slaughter of animals. This group has appealed similar legislation in Denmark, as well as legislation against male circumcision in Germany.

In England, the battle has turned towards an attempt to label products in accordance with their method of slaughter, a move opposed by both Jews and Muslims. One proposal would simply advise whether the meat was slaughtered “stunned” or non-stunned.” Some legislators are arguing that if such labelling is entertained, it should facilitate the labeling of all meat (i.e. electrical current, carbon dioxide, inert gas, captive bolt pistol, gunshot or free bullet).

A European source told Kosher Today that playing the constitutional card at this juncture appears to be a “correct strategy” for the Jewish community because of the sensitivities in Europe over growing anti-Semitic and anti-Muslim sentiments, the latter growing in Germany.