Greece’s highest court rejects ritual slaughter permit, calls for solution

Greece’s highest court has spoken out against current regulations allowing ritual slaughter, responding to fears some Jewish leaders expressed last year after the EU’s highest court ruled in favor of such prohibitions.

The court overturned the current slaughter permit, provided by a ministerial decision exempting ritual slaughter from the general requirement to stun animals before killing them.

The judges said lawmakers must find a way to meet the demands of animal rights activists and the needs of Jews and Muslims who respect food laws in their traditions.

“The government should regulate the issue of the slaughter of animals for worship so as to ensure both the protection of animals from any inconvenience during slaughter and the religious freedom of Muslims and religious Jews living in Greece The court declared, according to the Greek news site Protothema.

Last December, the EU’s highest court upheld bans imposed in regions of Belgium from slaughtering animals for their meat without first stunning them. The decision meant that slaughter in accordance with Jewish law, which requires animals to be aware when their necks are cut, would be banned in these areas, as is the case in other parts of Europe.

Greece’s highest court did not cite the ruling in its ruling Tuesday on a petition filed by the Pan-Hellenic Federation for Animal Welfare and the Environment, according to Protothema. But Jewish watchdogs who monitor ritual slaughter bans across mainland Europe have said the link is undeniable.

“We warned in December of the downstream consequences of the European Court of Justice ruling, and now we are seeing the result,” said Rabbi Menachem Margolin, president of the European Jewish Association. “The freedom of the Jewish religion is directly attacked. It started in Belgium, moved to Poland and Cyprus, and now it’s Greece’s turn.

Rabbi Jacob Werchow presents geese slaughtered by his team in Csengele, Hungary, September 29, 2021. (Cnaan Liphshiz / JTA)

In 2011, the Netherlands briefly joined several EU countries where ritual slaughter is illegal, including Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Estonia and Slovenia. The Dutch Senate overturned the ban in 2012, citing freedom of worship. Poland also banned the practice in 2013, but has since reduced the ban to only include meat intended for export.

The ban on kosher slaughter, or shekhita, are part of a fight across Europe between animal welfare activists and representatives of Muslim and Jewish communities. In recent years, anti-immigration activists and politicians unhappy with the immigration of Muslims to Europe have joined the debate. A similar struggle is taking place around the non-medical circumcision of boys, or brit mila in the Jewish tradition.

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