The ruling marks another development in the country’s debate on the ban, which has been in place since November 2012, when a court ruled it was unconstitutional to allow any exemptions from Poland’s animal welfare rules. In July 2013, the Polish parliament rejected a bill that would have legalised non-stun slaughter for kosher and halal meat, but it was rejected by a majority of 222 MPs against, with 178 votes for and nine abstentions.
"Art. 34 of the bill… is in violation with art. 53 of the Polish Constitution," the court said.
The court issued its ruling, which was passed by a majority of nine to five, following a demand submitted by the Jewish Community in Poland (ZGWZ RP). The organisation’s representatives have praised the decision.
"According to the opinion of the Polish parliament, non-stun slaughter performed for the needs of the local Jewish community – and this is what we are aiming for – is permitted, and the person who is carrying out such activities cannot be penalised. However, the General Prosecutor’s Office claims that [non-stun] slaughter is completely forbidden. We wanted to clarify this question," the ZGWZ RP said in a statement. "According to our estimates, there are several dozen thousand Jews in Poland. It is our duty to ensure that those who have such needs have access to kosher food, including meat."
The decision is also likely to be welcomed by Poland-based meat processors, for which the halal and kosher meat markets could compensate for the halt in Poland’s meat exports to Russia. While the ruling relates to non-commercial activities, local observers say the court’s decision could open the door to relaunching production of halal and kosher meat in Poland.
Roman Giertych, an attorney who represents the European Jewish Association (EJA) in Poland, said the ruling indicated that exports of kosher meat processed by Polish companies will once again become legal, as there will be no regulation forbidding such activities.
The opinion is also shared by those who oppose non-stun slaughter. Jacek Bozek, head of animal rights organisation Klub Gaja, told local news agency PAP: "The Constitutional Court’s ruling ... is paving the way for those who want to carry it out for commercial purposes."