Estonia Plans To Change Kosher Slaughter Law

Estonia will change its law on religious slaughter, government officials have said.

The change is necessary because religious slaughter “does not take new scientific knowledge into account,” the head of Estonia’s Animal Welfare Bureau, Sirje Jalakas, told JTA.

She added that “there is no plan to ban” kosher slaughter in Estonia. The change is being determined based on the 2010 DialRel report, Jalakas said.

The report says kosher slaughter, or shechita, causes higher risk, pain and suffering in animals than methods that involve stunning. Jewish religious law requires animals to be conscious when their necks are cut.

The DialRel document served as the scientific basis for a 2011 Dutch bill to ban ritual slaughter. The Dutch Parliament approved the bill but its Senate scrapped it in June.

Estonia’s current policy on ritual slaughter is among the European Union’s strictest. Authorities must be notified 10 work days ahead of each planned slaughter. A government inspector oversees each procedure. All animals are stunned after their throats are cut - a procedure known as post-cut stunning, which not all rabbis permit.

The DialRel report states post-cut stunning results as “intermediate” for pain and suffering during the post-cut period. In methods involving previous stunning, pain and suffering are “low,” the report said.

Moshe Kantor, president of the European Jewish Congress, told JTA his organization “calls on all nations to show the utmost restraint when attempting to change the status quo regarding Jewish traditions and practices.” He added: “Proscribing or limiting Jewish practices sends entirely the wrong message to the Jewish community.”

Shmuel Kot, Estonia’s chief rabbi, said the authorities are consulting him on the planned change. Approximately 1,000 Jews live in Estonia, according to the Estonian Institute.

A spokesperson for the Rabbinical Centre of Europe, a Brussels-based group, said the organization was “confident that any decision on animal slaughter in Estonia would not end in banning the practice.”

Shechita is banned in Sweden, Norway, Switzerland and Iceland. Countries that impose post-cut stunning include Estonia, Finland, Denmark and Austria.

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