On March 20, 2013 almost 2,000 representatives of the Polish meat industry protested in front of the Polish Parliament demanding legalization of ritual slaughter of animals without stunning.
THIS REPORT CONTAINS ASSESSMENTS OF COMMODITY AND TRADE ISSUES MADE BY
USDA STAFF AND NOT NECESSARILY STATEMENTS OF OFFICIAL U.S. GOVERNMENT
GAIN Report Number: PL1312
The Ritual Slaughter Debate - More than Meats the Eye!
Michael Henney, Agricultural Attaché
Piotr Rucinski, Agricultural Specialist
The continuing ideological debate pitting religion versus animal rights broadened this past week as
producer and commercial stakeholders publically entered the fray through a peaceful demonstration and
deliverance of petitions demanding their economic rights be taken into consideration by government
leaders as well.
On March 20, 2013 almost 2,000 representatives of the Polish meat industry protested in front of the
Polish Parliament demanding legalization of ritual slaughter of animals without stunning. Since January
1, 2013, the slaughter of animals without stunning has been banned in Poland as a result of the court
decision following a legal challenge to the standing Polish regulation (See Gain PL1302). The Polish
Meat Association and the National Committee of Manifestation organized the protest in effort to elevate
the public’s eye the larger economic cost to society as measured by several thousand jobs lost due to the
country’s indifference towards personal religious rights. Protesters indicated the economic damage and
possible collapse of many businesses related to meat processing and meat exports resulting from the
legislation prohibiting slaughter of animals without stunning. The organizers of the protest presented
petitions directed to Ewa Kopacz, the Speaker of the Lower Parliament (Sejm), and to Donald Tusk, the
Prime Minister, that demands modification to existing national legislation.
According to industry calculations presented by protestors, in 2012 animals slaughtered in accordance
to ritual Islamic and Judean principles produced product amounting to 10 percent of poultry and over
thirty percent of beef exported. In 2012, total Polish exports of poultry meat reached Euro 1.2 billion,
and beef – Euro 1.35 billion.
The Government of Poland released an announcement that due the Minister of Agriculture being in
Brussels attending the EU Council of Ministers meeting, further government discussion on the proposal
to amend the Law on Protection of Animals would be delayed. This law provides the basis by which
animal rights activists challenged religious based ritual slaughter practices.
The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD) had sought to amend the segment of the
Polish Law on Protection of Animals that the courts had ruled prohibited the slaughter of animals
without prior stunning by inserting reference to EU Regulation 1099/2009 which defines the legally
acceptable treatment of animals during slaughter. While MARD’s activity was internal press reports
purport that the proposal submitted to the Council of Ministers (Poland’s Cabinet) for consider included
the opinion of the European Food Safety Agency (EFSA) which notes that even with prior stunning an
animal suffered from slaughter and that certain Islamic sects (not all) allowed for stunning of animals
prior to ritual slaughter.
The Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) weighed in on this issue showing support for the position
of the MARD with its legal opinion that the (MARD) proposal was in line with the EU law. The MFA
also highlighted that in Austria, France, and Germany ritual slaughter was allowed through special
permits issued to religious communities while in Spain and Italy slaughter plants only were required to
notify authorities that they conduct ritual slaughter activity on premise.
The animal welfare organization - Foundation Ius Animalia, accused the MARD of incorrect
interpretation of EU law. In its opinion slaughter with stunning is a rule in the EU while ritual slaughter
is an exception that requires introduction of detailed national regulations. It also refers to the European
Tribunal of Human Rights which in 2000 stated that if ritual slaughter is carried out it must be regulated
by the national public authority (Re: Cha’are Shalom Ve Tsedek vs France).
Wednesday’s demonstration served to further broaden the political stakes challenging the current Polish
government as it moved the public discussion beyond the religious versus animal rights debate to also
enjoin now labor and commercial viability considerations in a country sliding into economic contraction
and rising unemployment.