Following a petition brought by animal welfare groups, a top court in Poland ruled this week that the ritual slaughter of animals by religious groups violates the country’s constitution and animal protection laws.
The court found regulations that allow animals to have their throats cut and to subsequently be left to bleed to death without prior stunning to be against a 1997 Polish law that slaughter should only “follow the loss of consciousness” after stunning and that the agricultural minister didn’t have the authority to issue such regulations in the first place.
The decision comes weeks before an EU law allowing the practice on the grounds of religious freedom will go into effect on January 1. According to Poland’s Agriculture Minister Stanislaw Kalemba, the EU law will take precedence and remove any doubts about the legality of ritual slaughter in Poland, reports the BBC.
Critics of the ruling are concerned about what message it will send about religious tolerance and how it will affect exports of kosher and halal meat. A similar measure was supported and approved in the Netherlands last year, but failed to pass after public outcry that a ban would violate religious freedom.
However, animal advocates still see the ruling as a victory and are arguing that Poland may still be able to request an exemption from the EU law.
“It’s up to us to decide whether we want a law authorising this kind of slaughter or not,” Dariusz Gzyra of the campaign group Empatia told the AFP.
In most countries, stunning is believed to be more humane and is required prior to slaughter. However, there are many exemptions for religious slaughter, where Muslims and Jews argue that animals feel no pain. Animal advocates disagree and believe it is inhumane and that it causes severe suffering and stress to animals who are conscious through the process. It’s a debate that’s likely to continue
Warning: Graphic video comparing stunning versus halal slaughter methods.
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