Minister Kalemba: photo - Agriculture Ministry
Minister Stanislaw Kalemba promised that a draft amendment to the relevant act concerning animal protection will go before parliament as early as next week.
In a blow to animal rights activists, Kalemba, a member of junior coalition member, the Polish Peasants' Party (PSL), noted that only one article in the act will be altered in the draft.
“This is the quickest way to change the law, as a [new] bill by the government would require protracted public consultation,” he told news channel TVP.
The ruling was a set back for the small Jewish and Muslim communities in Poland, which rely on the slaughtering for kosher and halal products.
The EU has said that national governments should have the right to exempt religious practices from animal rights legislation.
Poland's Constitutional Court, a supervisory judicial body that resolves disputes in the country's laws, ruled on 28 November that ritual slaughter of animals for kosher and halal meat is “unconstitutional,” and that the practice will be illegal as of 31 December.
The case came before the court after Attorney General Andrzej Seremet was petitioned to investigate the issue by animal rights groups concerning a previous amendment introduced in 2004, contradicting the 1997 act on animal protection, which held that animals cannot be slaughtered for meat without being stunned beforehand.
Minister Kalemba stressed that on 1 January, a new EU regulation will come into effect, approving ritual slaughter.
“Arguments have been made that European law overrides national law, and that EU regulations can be applied directly,” he said.
Nevertheless, he noted that “clarifying this procedure could take some time, however.”
Referring to Poland's Muslim and Jewish communities, which by custom consume halal and kosher meat, Kalemba argued that according to Polish and European charters, “it is necessary to respect the rights of religious groups, where ritual slaughter has been practised for thousands of years.”
He also stressed the economic dimension.
According to Kalemba, Poland exports halal and kosher meat to twenty countries, including within the European Union and also to Turkey.
Some 10 percent of the poultry and cattle slaughtered in Poland are done so in this manner.
Poland has 17 cattle and 12 poultry slaughterhouses which practise ritual slaughter, and 4000 people are employed as a result of the industry. (nh/pg)