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Ritual slaughter in Poland

Since the year 2020 Polish parliament has been working on the amendment for Animal Protection Law, which will affect meat production and export. The new rule is so called „Five for Animals” includes controversial subject of animal slaughter. It’s worth mentioning that there are no accurate estimations of ritual slaughter meat market. According to data from  2021, among the greatest recipients of Polish beef was Israel, where 80% of the food market constituted kosher-certified products. When it comes to poultry, Uzbekistan remains one of the most important export destinations. 15 131 tons of poultry meat was exported there in 2021 alone. When it comes to promising export markets such as some of the African countries or Arabian Peninsula, halal certified products form the dominant group.

When it comes to both kosher and halal products, food preparation requires following strict procedures, including special rules related to slaughter Due to cultural changes taking place among European countries, including the increasing prominence of animal rights in the public discourse, the ritual slaughter has become a controversial subject of public debate. Both kosher and halal meat production excludes the option of stunning the animals before slaughter due to religious rules of Judaism and Islam respectively. This has become  a source of major disagreement between animal rights activists, meat producers and followers of Islam and Judaism. It is worth mentioning that Poland has been exporting an increasing amount of meat in recent years – in the year 2020, despite the pandemic, more than 373 thousands tons of refrigerated or frozen meat and more than 63 thousands of living animals were sold abroad. Between January and July 2021, the value of meat export has increased by 4%.

Ritual slaughter and European Union law

The ritual slaughter in European Union membership countries is regulated by legal provisions found in Council Regulation (EC) No 1099/2009 of 24 September 2009 on the protection of animals at the time of killing.

According to the provisions of article 4 – every slaughter requires prior stunning. The only exception was made for the religious rituals described in the 4th paragraph. It refers to the situation when the religious freedom requires a special type of slaughter, which appears in Judaism and Islam. It’s worth noting that while  the law allows for the ritual slaughter in accordance with religious laws, the act has to be conducted in a professional butchery.

In 2017 Belgium  faced the conflict between the Flemish, Walloon authorities and the religious associations representing the followers of Islam and Judaism. The litigation started when the two districts explicitly forbade the slaughter without prior stunning. As it was mentioned before, both religions exclude the possibility of prior animal stunning.

The litigation ended up in Belgian Constitution Court, which requested a ruling from the Court of Justice of the European Union. The case involved the adjudication of a dispute over the hierarchy of legal acts. In this case, it was a conflict between animal laws and religious freedom.

Court of Justice of the European Union indicated that the rule regulation prescribing the animal stunning prior the slaughter do not limit the religious freedom. Religious followers still have the option of purchasing imported meat products with proper certification.

The ruling pointed out the possibility of implementation more restrictive slaughter rules in the European Union member states.

Ritual slaughter and Polish law

In Poland, issues related to ritual slaughter are regulated by the Law of August 21, 1997 on animal protection. It was amended in 2020, pursuant to the Law of September 18, 2020 amending the Law on Animal Protection and certain other laws.

Despite the Polish and European Union rights compliance, the ritual slaughter is still considered as a controversial subject. The arguments about legality of ritual slaughter continue to be raised in public debates. In 2014 the possibility of the ritual slaughter prohibition was examined by Constitutional Tribunal.

The Tribunal judgement from the 10th of December indicated that prohibition of ritual slaughter would be against the constitutional law of human law and basic freedoms protection. At the time the absolute prohibition of such rituals was recognized as an act of religious freedom.

On September 18, 2020, the debated was restarted with the emergence of the law purporting to amend the Law on the Protection of Animals alongside a few other laws.. Among the regulations were provisions banning the breeding and raising of fur animals, as well as restricting ritual slaughter.

A legal expertise from September 30, 2020, conducted to assess the draft law’s compliance with the Polish Constitution and EU regulations, determined the proposed provisions as “[..]too short, detached from reality and conflicting the principle of protection of confidence in the state and the law made by it, contained in the second article of Constitution“.

The official statement from 12 of October 2020, available at gov.pl website,  proposed to allow the ritual slaughter only in case of poultry meat. At the same time the vacatio legis for provisions banning the breeding and raising of fur animals, as well as restricting ritual slaughter was ordered.

On the 14th of October 2020 senate has published an official statement. The project of law amending was relayed to the Commission for Agricultural and Rural development. The senate corrections weren’t considered by the parliament so the work remains unfinished as of yet.

For further information about the legal enviroment in Poland please contact Polish Investment and Trade Agency



Polish Investment and Trade Agency (PAIH)

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