WARSAW - Facing angry reactions from its Muslim and Jewish population, Poland government has decided to amend its law to allow ritual slaughter one week after its ban by a decision from the European country’s constitutional court.
“This is the quickest way to change the law, as a [new] bill by the government would require protracted public consultation,” Stanislaw Kalemba, the minister of agriculture, told Polish news channel TVP, Russia Today reported on Friday, December 7.
Uproar followed a decision by Poland's top court last November 28, ruling that the religious slaughter of animals is illegal.
The Polish court considered the case following a petition by animal welfare groups.
Attorney General Andrzej Seremet, at the request of animal rights' groups, argued that a 2004 amendment allowing ritual slaughter on religious grounds was unconstitutional in that it contravened animal rights legislation dating back to 1997.
Under the 1997 laws, slaughter should only "follow the loss of consciousness" after a farm animal is stunned.
The Constitutional Tribunal said it was against Polish law to allow animals to have their throats cut and bleed to death without first being stunned.
According to the Islamic and Jewish ritual, the animal is slaughtered by a sharp blade.
The concept of halal, -- meaning permissible in Arabic -- has traditionally been applied to food.
Muslims should only eat meat from livestock slaughtered by a sharp knife from their necks, and the name of Allah, the Arabic word for God, must be mentioned.
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.
Issued weeks before an EU law allowing the practice takes effect, the constitutional court ban would have been overridden by the European law.
“Arguments have been made that European law overrides national law, and that EU regulations can be applied directly,” Kalemba, a member of the Polish Peasant’s Party (PSL), said.
He also said that “it is necessary to respect the rights of religious groups, where ritual slaughter has been practiced for thousands of years.”
Kalemba’s announcement will be welcomed by Poland’s small Muslim and Jewish communities after critics expressed concerns that it would send a message about religious tolerance in the country.
Poland has about 6,000 Jews and 25,000 Muslims, according to the European Jewish Congress and US State Department estimates.
The decision is also good news to Poland’s export industry.
Poland has 29 slaughterhouses which practice ritual slaughter, employing 4,000 people. The industry is worth $259 million in exports.
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