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Poland Says Non-Commercial Kosher Slaughter Legal

Polish Jews who perform non-commercial ritual slaughter for the needs of the Jewish community are not violating the law, Poland’s parliament announced in a statement.

The statement appeared in a position paper by the Sejm, Poland’s parliament, that parliament sent recently to the country’s Constitutional Tribunal, the Warsaw-based Dziennik Gazeta Prawna daily newspaper reported Wednesday.

The legal status of religious slaughter of farm animals was plunged into uncertainty in November 2012 when the tribunal ruled that the government was acting unconstitutionally by allowing Jews and Muslims to slaughter animals without prior stunning, as their faiths require.

The ruling was widely interpreted as imposing a ban on ritual slaughter, which had evolved into a for-export industry of more than $500 million a year in Poland.

While commercial activity around Jewish slaughter, or shechitah, remains forbidden, “in its current form, Polish law does not permit penalizing slaughter for internal Jewish communities,” the letter read, according to the Gazeta Prawna report.

But the Sejm is of the opinion that the law “allows to carry out the slaughter only to the extent to which it meets the needs of [community] members,” the statement said, adding: “This excludes the same slaughter for other needs (especially economic and commercial).”

The letter was sent to the tribunal in connection with an appeal by Poland’s Union of Jewish Religious Communities.

The union argues that ritual slaughter is enshrined not only by a 2004 government directive which the tribunal scrapped, but also in the 1997 Act on the Relation of the State to the Jewish Communities in Poland, which permits ritual slaughter.

The act appears to be in conflict with a 2002 amendment to Poland’s 1997 law on animal welfare, which says animals must be stunned before they are slaughtered.

The Jewish union appealed to the court to sort out the apparent contradiction after the failure in July of a bill which proposed legalizing ritual slaughter.

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