WARSAW – In the first such gathering since World War II, European Rabbis has met in the Polish capital Warsaw, putting the ritual slaughter of animals, banned by the Dutch government earlier this year, on the top of their agenda.
"The burning issue that is unique to this conference is the question of 'shechita'," or the kosher Jewish method of ritual animal slaughter, Poland's chief Rabbi Michael Schudrich told Agence France Presse (AFP) on Monday, October 31.
"There needs to be a place where religious rights meet animal rights -- which for us is ludicrous, because shechita is the humane way," he added.
A proposal to ban the ritual slaughter was first submitted by a pro-animal party, the Party for Animals (PvdD).
The party, which holds two seats in the 150-seat Dutch parliament, said that such ritual slaughter causes unnecessary pain to the animal.
Last June, the Dutch parliament voted in favor of banning the ritual slaughter of animals, to the anger of Muslim and Jewish minorities in the European country.
The bill stipulates that livestock must be stunned before being slaughtered, contrary to the Muslim halal and Jewish Kosher slaughters which require animals to be fully conscious.
Jewish and Muslim leaders have been angry with the proposed ban.
"We remember the last time when shechita was being banned in many countries in Europe and that was under the Nazi occupation," Schudrich told AFP.
"Although no one's claiming that Holland is Nazi, it certainly does trigger in us very bad memories."
Poland’s chief rabbi insisted that the Dutch ban was a “huge misunderstanding” for the humane nature of ritual slaughter.
Schudrich insisted that the nearly 4,000-year-old tradition of kosher slaughter "is one of the most sensitive, humane methods of slaughtering an animal -- it's dead within seconds."
"It seems that the problems in Holland today have less to do with the actual humanitarian aspects of shechita and more with their internal social problems with minority groups," he added.
The convention of the Conference of European Rabbis, which is held every two years in various cities and is in its 27th edition here, will also tackle issues of the Jewish faith and secularization.
"In the age of secularism and atheism, how do we pass on to our youth a commitment and devotion to spirituality and to our religious tradition?" asked Schudrich, stressing the deep symbolism of the conference being held in Poland.
Muslims make up one million of the Netherlands’s 16 million population, mostly from Turkish and Moroccan origin.
Dutch Jews number around 50,000.
Of the 500 million animals slaughtered annually for food in the Netherlands, only 1.2 million animals are slaughtered according to Muslim or Jewish traditions, Dutch statistics show.
Muslim scholars agree that Shari`ah provides a divine law of mercy that should be applied on all Allah’s creations, including animals.
Islam also provides details about avoiding any unnecessary pain.
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