Constitutional Tribunal: Prohibition of Ritual Slaughter Violates the Constitution and the European Convention on Human Rights
In the application to the Constitutional Tribunal, the Union of Jewish Religious Communities in Poland questioned those provisions of the Law on Protection of Animals which prohibited ritual slaughter required by religious prescriptions and provided for criminal liability for its performance. In the applicants’ opinion, these provisions violated freedom of religion guaranteed in the Constitution and the Convention.
According to the application, the prohibition of ritual slaughter limits the freedom of Jews to publically practice their religion and preserve customs and traditions. “In European societies, including Poland, it is precisely the Judeo-Christian tradition, so crucial in determining the bases for limiting freedom of religion, which constitutes the proper point of reference in examining the admissibility of this freedom’s limitation,” states the application.
„Hunting for the purpose of entertainment is a less humanitarian way of killing animals, and the law allows it,” argued advocate Mikołaj Pietrzak during the trial before the Constitutional Tribunal. “Why shouldn’t we then, in the name of religious freedom, allow ritual slaughter?” he asked.
In the rationale of its decision, the Tribunal asserted that the greatest respect for freedom of religion is compliant with moral norms shared by the overwhelming majority of Polish society. The Tribunal ruled that instituting prohibition of ritual slaughter is not necessary in light of any interest indicated in Article 31 paragraph 1 of the Constitution, in particular morality or public health. Thus, such a limitation does not fulfil the requirements of the constitution and is disproportional.
Upon publication of the judgment in the Journal of Laws, ritual slaughter performed in a licensed slaughterhouse in accordance with special methods required by religious prescriptions will be allowed. As a result of the judgment, the binding standard in Poland will be the one set forth in the Council Regulation (EC) No 1099/2009 of 24 September 2009 on the protection of animals at the time of killing (Official Journal of the European Union of 18 November 2009).