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Poland Overturns Kosher/Halal Slaughter Ban

Constitutional Court rules that ban violates religious freedom

Yair Rosenberg
December 18, 2014
Constitutional Tribunal in Warsaw, Poland. (Wikimedia Commons)
Constitutional Tribunal in Warsaw, Poland. (Wikimedia Commons)

This past week, Jews and Muslims across Poland breathed a sigh of relief as its Constitutional Court overturned the country’s ban on ritual slaughter. Since January 2013, these communities have been forced to import their meat or abstain from it altogether, in the face of legislation barring the centuries-old practices of kosher and halal slaughter. The Polish court, however, ruled that the law was an unacceptable abridgement of the fundamental religious rights of Jews and Muslims. “Poland’s top Muslim leader, Tomasz Miskiewicz, and Jewish officials in and out of Poland welcomed the decision,” the AP reported.

This verdict marks the close of a difficult period for both groups, whose daily living and religious observance was circumscribed by the ban, which had been successfully passed by animal rights activists. In one notable incident, Polish Muslims were forced to cancel their annual Eid al-Adha sacrifice. “For the first time in hundreds of years, there was no ritual slaughter here today for the Eid feast,” Michal Adamowicz, a spokesman for the community, told the AFP.

In July 2013, Israel tried unsuccessfully to negotiate a compromise on the issue, which resulted in a minor political scandal when it was revealed that Prime Minister Netanyahu’s delegation did not eat kosher on the trip, potentially undermining their position. But while local and foreign actors failed to sway the Polish parliament–which reaffirmed the ban that July–five out of nine justices at the country’s top court seem have found their arguments persuasive. Whether the Constitutional Court’s ruling will embolden Jews and Muslims to challenge ritual slaughter bans in other European countries, like the recent and controversial one in Denmark, remains to be seen.

Yair Rosenberg is a senior writer at Tablet. Subscribe to his newsletter, listen to his music, and follow him on Twitter and Facebook.