photo - Andy Wright/Wikimedia Commons
“Our position is not dictated by any dislike of religious practices and rituals but based solely on scientific knowledge and moral opposition to extreme forms of cruelty to animals,” reads the letter written by Dr Antoni Amirowicz at the Institute of Nature Conservation, Polish Academy of Sciences and Prof. Jerzy Bańbura of the Department of Experimental Zoology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Lodz.
The letter, supported by 90 Polish scientists, is in response to Poland's agriculture minister pledging to amend animal rights legislation to allow ritual animal slaughter, after the Polish Constitutional Court ruled on 27 November that kosher and halal methods of killing animals was inconsistant with Polish law.
On 7 December, Prime Minister Donald Tusk said he would take expert advise before recommending a change in the law on the issue, which came to a head after animal rights activists called for a ban of the Jewish and Muslim slaughtering methods in Poland.
The court ruled that in 2007, an agricultural minister over-stepped his powers when changing Poland's 1997 animal rights law to bring it in line with EU guidelines, which say that long-established religious practices can be exempt from legislation on slaughtering animals for meat.
The junior coalition partner, the Polish Peasants party (PSL) - who the current agricultural minister is a member of – has argued that banning kosher and halal slaughtering practices, which forbid the animal being stunned before being bled to death, would deprive Poland of millions of zloty in exports to Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Israel and other countries.
But the letter written by scientists claims the practice - banned in Sweden, an EU member - is extremely cruel to animals.
“Research carried out by an international group of experts on the ritual in slaughterhouses confirmed that the slaughter carried out through slits to the throat and bleeding with no loss of consciousness is extremely inhumane and causes unimaginable suffering to the animal. We appeal to you when deciding on ritual slaughter to take into account the facts established by numerous research [into the method of slaughter],” the letter says.
New EU legislation, which comes into force at the beginning of 2013 says that religious practices must be respected in the area of animal rights – though Poland can still opt out of the new law.
No political party has supported the Constitutional Court ruling, however, fearful of trampling on religious sensitivities among Poland's small Jewish and Muslim communities on the issue. (pg)