Kosher Animal Slaughter Still Banned in Poland

Last December the Polish Constitutional Court banned ritual slaughter after finding it violated the country’s animal protection laws, but it was unclear at the time whether the ban would be upheld.

The controversy over religious slaughter has been brewing in Poland since 1997 when the country required slaughter to “follow the loss of consciousness” after stunning under its Animal Protection Act — a step that is forbidden by kosher and halal rules.

Jewish shechita and Muslim dhabiha slaughter methods that produce kosher and halal meats require animals to be conscious during slaughter, which involves having their throats slit before they are bled out. Most countries require stunning prior to slaughter, which is believed to be more humane. However, in other countries, including the U.S., religious slaughter may be exempt from animal welfare laws.

Animal rights groups filed a petition over an exemption that allowed religious slaughter that was enacted in 2004 following objections to the ban from religious groups. Last year, the court decided that the exemption was unconstitutional and that slaughtering animals without stunning them first violated the 1997 Animal Protection Act.

Last week, the government rejected a bill that would have overturned the ban on religious slaughter.

The reactions to the ban being upheld have been mixed with some arguing religious intolerance. However, according to the Economist, no anti-Semitic or anti-Muslim arguments were used to debate the ban, only arguments for animal welfare and the country’s interest in keeping exports flowing.

Polish Chief Rabbi Schudrich compared the ban to Nazi propaganda and threatened to resign, but the loudest opposition seems to be coming from those who stand to lose money over the ban. What was intended to allow for religious slaughter for a small sector turned into big business.

According to The Independent, by 2011, up to 30 percent of all Polish beef exports came from ritually slaughtered cattle – more than 150,000 animals – and brought in about one billion euros. Following the ban, producers were the ones who stirred more outrage than religious communities.

However, this week Poland’s Prime Minister Donald Tusk announced that he has no plans to reintroduce legislation to lift the ban, but added that the government would wait for a decision by a constitutional court on “whether the ban on kosher slaughter was harming the rights of religious minorities,” reports Reuters.

Still, the issue here isn’t about religious intolerance, it’s about animal suffering and the thousands of animals who remain fully aware of what is happening to them while they are being killed. While many exemptions exist for religious slaughter, most countries consider modern slaughter methods that involve a loss of consciousness prior to killing to be more humane and cause less stress to animals. Despite the protests over the ban, there are still some that sympathize with its goal.

Severyn Ashkenazy, the founder of the Progressive Jewish Community of Poland, stated that, “We Jews must behave honourably and lead in kindness toward animals… Now we live in the greatest scientific century, should we not rather trust a veterinary doctor than a mashgiach [supervisor of kosher observance]?”


Comparison of ritual slaughter methods vs. stunning (warning: graphic footage).

Photo credit: Thinkstock

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Margaret Goodman
Margaret Goodman2 years ago

I am Jewish, and I could not watch the entire video. Seeing a cow's head writhe and eyes stare in pain was too much. I'd always heard that kosher slaughter was humane. Reading this thread, it appears that might not be true. My wish would be for all who slaughter animals to get together to determine the most humane way, get that method into law, and then get it enforced.

Iwona J.
Iwona J.2 years ago

Well done, Poland! For the first time, I'm really proud of my country!

Carrie-Anne Brown

thanks for sharing

Claudia Cavallo
Claudia Cavallo2 years ago

I don't think any God asks us to treat animals badly. My God is surely not mad at me if I eat meat that didn't suffer his last moments. Of course the best thing I did is that I am veg and don't have to worry about were my vegetables come from

Emma Stone
Emma Stone2 years ago

"Religion is for the weak-minded"
--A. Einstein

I rest my case.

Louise Peacock
Louise Peacock2 years ago

Ritual killing, is ritual killing. There should be NO exceptions to this. I totally oppose animals being killed in this inhumane manner. I don't give a cr@p for the religious zealots who insist they should have exceptions. No F$cking exceptions @$$hats - you are all cruel, murdering bastards.

Eternal Gardener
Eternal Gardener2 years ago


Severine C.
Severine C.2 years ago

Actually, Australian halal slaughterhouses stun animals prior to slaughter!! That's due to differing interpretations of the Quran, but it proves that stunning is possible...

Of course, the best thing to do to help animals and the environment (and human health!) is to go vegan :)

Adam P.
Adam P.2 years ago

I think that people who don't live in Poland don't know what is going on. Our law ban only ritual slaughtering in factories, and not ban private slaughter inside religious groups.
In my opinion any kind of such treating animals is simply cruel and feeling-less. They should be left of conscious before death!

Kevin Watkins
Kevin W.2 years ago

I butcher my own chickens and I don't stun them first because a stunner is about $1,500. I understand people's sensibilities about watching an animal struggle for life while it is bleeding out, but I must pose a question that I have posed on this site before: How do we place value on a life? Insects are animals with central nervous systems, should we not be allowed to make termites suffer with chemicals to protect our homes? Should we criminalize the burning or beheading of a tick? Roaches? Ants? Mosquitoes? Cockroaches? I am an animal welfare advocate and believe that domestic animals should be properly cared for and lead a good life even if they will eventually be slaughtered. My concern is that someone, somewhere will sue a state because it's animal cruelty laws are biased toward domestic mammals and birds and that insects and other animals commonly considered to be pests are not receiving equal treatment under the law. When that day comes, I fear that all animal welfare laws my be undermined.