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La question de l’abattage rituel en Pologne

Until 1st January 2013, the legal basis for ritual slaugther in Poland was para 8.2 of the Ordinance of the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development of 9th September 2004, on the qualifications of personnel entitled to perform professional slaughter and the conditions and methods of slaughtering and killing animals. On that day the provision lost its legal force according to the judgment of the Constitutional Tribunal of 27th November 2012 (U 4/12). The Tribunal found that the Ordinance was in contravention of Art. 34 para. 1 and 6 of the Act on Animal Protection, and consequently in contravention of Art. 92 para. 1 of the Constitution of the Republic of Poland.

The new legal situation has become the focus of social and political debates. On the one hand, animal rights activists have called for the ban of ritual slaughter. On the other hand, the situation following from the tribunal’s judgment has caused justifiable anxiety among religious organizations for which ritual slaughter is religious obligation. This has been the case with the Muslim religious organization and the Jewish religious communities. The Polish Bishops Conference expressed solidarity with these organizations and emphasized their long-standing tradition of ritual slaughter. In the public debate, it has also been indicated that the situation might threaten the interests of some Polish meat companies.

Given the complexity of the current legal situation, it should be noted that Art. 53 para. 1 and 2 of the Constitution of the Republic of Poland ensures freedom of conscience and religion to everyone. This includes the freedom to manifest one’s religion, for example by participating in religious ceremonies and performing rites. Similar regulations are included in the Act of 17th May 1989 on the guarantees of freedom of conscience and religion, which guarantees the right to participate in religious practices and rites and fulfil religious obligations. A strict ban on ritual slaughter would be in contradiction with these texts, and also in contravention of the Act of 20th February 1997 on the relationship of the state to the Jewish Religious Communities in the Republic of Poland, which provides the Jewish Communities with the right to obtain kosher food and organize ritual slaughter.

Taking into consideration the unclear relationship between those different regulations, the Union of the Jewish religious communities has made an aplication to the Constitutional tribunal. A legal query regarding this issue has also been submitted by the district court in Białystok, which received a complaint concerning the refusal to start investigation regarding livestock slaughter without prior stunning. The eagerly awaited decision of the Constitutional Tribunal seems to be the only way of breaking the deadlock.

Ban on ritual slaughter inconsistent with the Constitution of the Republic of Poland

The Constitutional Tribunal, following the motion of the Union of Jewish Religious Communities, resolved the issue of the questioned consistency of the ritual slaughter of animals with the Constitution of the Republic of Poland of 2nd April 1997. In the judgment of 10th December 2014, the Tribunal stated that Art. 34 para. 1 of the Act of 21th August 1997, on the protection of animals, insofar as it does not allow the subjecting of animals to slaughter in accordance with special methods prescribed by religious rites, as well as Art. 35 para. 1 and 4 of this Act, insofar as it provides criminal liability for subjecting animals to this kind of slaughter, are inconsistent with Art. 53 para. 1, 2 and 5 of the Constitution in connection with Art. 9 of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.
The judgment of the Tribunal confirms that the freedom of religion, and especially the right to manifest religion, encompasses the right of religious organizations to practice ritual slaughter. The absolute prohibition of this kind of practices constitutes, in the Tribunal’s view, an unfounded (in the light of the Art. 53 para. 5 of the Constitution and Art. 9 para. 2 of the Convention) restriction of the freedom of religion.
The judgment was delivered by the full bench of the Tribunal, but five judges submitted dissenting opinions. The verdict was met with approval by Jewish and Muslim religious circles, and was received with loud opposition from animal rights activists.
Since the day the judgment was delivered (12th December 2014), the contested provisions of the Act on the protection of animals have no longer been in force insofar as they prohibited ritual slaughter. This means that the issue of ritual slaughter in Poland is today regulated by the Council Regulation (EC) No. 1099/2009 of 24th September 2009 on the protection of animals at the time of killing. Art. 4 para. 4 states that in the case of animals subject to particular methods of slaughter prescribed by religious rites, the requirements for stunning animals before killing shall not apply, provided that the slaughter takes place in a slaughterhouse.

D 8 janvier 2015    AKatarzyna Starzecka

CNRS Unistra Dres Gsrl

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