EU Backs Legalizing Shechitah


shechitahThe European Parliament yesterday voted in favor of legalizing shechitah of animals in all European Union countries. In a plenary session on the issue, a majority of MEPs voted to introduce laws that would allow shechita “in accordance with religious rites,” which would be binding across Europe. Shechita is currently forbidden in Sweden, Norway, Finland, Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania. Switzerland permits shechita for poultry only. The final text of the proposed amendment to the EU laws will be brought before the Council of the European Union next month.

“This vote represents the first time that shechita has been recognized as a legitimate form of animal slaughter by any European institution,” said Henry Grunwald, president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews and chairman of Shechita EU.”We have to see how this will effect legislation, but this is a good result,” said Michael Melchior, the Danish-born former chief rabbi of Norway, who was involved in efforts to legalize the practice in Scandinavia, where shechitah has been the subject of heated debate.

While Jewish groups have lobbied for shechitah’s legalization, animal rights groups vehemently oppose it, calling it inhumane. The UK Farm Animal Welfare Council says the method by which kosher and halal meat is produced “inflicts severe suffering upon animals and should be banned.”

But Melchior argues that the practice’s protocol makes it one of the most humane methods of slaughter in existence. “Traditionally, resistance to shechita was always mixed with xenophobia,” he said. “And now the same applies to the Muslim community and their halal slaughter practices.”

The EP vote represents a victory for the coalition of the European Jewish Congress, the Conference of European Rabbis and Shechita EU, a nonprofit promoting the legalization of shechitah.

“We see this issue as crucial to religious freedom and observance in Europe,” said Serge Cwajgenbaum, secretary general of the EJC.

{Yair Israel}