BUCHAREST, Romania (JTA) — Romanian authorities adopted a law that recognizes and gives specific protection to shechitah, or kosher ritual slaughter of animals, the Conference of European Rabbis said in a statement, hailing the move as a “landmark” example for other countries in Europe.
The new legislation, which the Romanian parliament passed Tuesday, comes roughly a year after the Court of the European Union upheld the bans of both the Muslim and Jewish traditional methods slaughter of animals for food in two Belgian states.
Jewish leaders and organizations decried the ruling, which the Israeli ambassador in Belgium called “catastrophic and a blow to Jewish life in Europe.” They have worked to lobby the European Union for protections and were heartened last month after the EU convened Muslim and Jewish leaders for the first time to discuss ritual meat production.
“I hope that other leaders across Europe will follow the initiative of the Romanian Parliament, valuing and protecting the continued future of Jewish life on the European continent,” said the president of the Conference of European Rabbis, Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt, who attended the signing ceremony in Bucharest. (Goldschmidt was until recently the chief rabbi of Moscow.)
Many European countries ban the slaughter of animals without stunning them first, a move that animal-rights activists say is more humane but which is not permitted under Jewish law. Many countries grant exceptions for shechitah, according to the Conference of European Rabbis, and Romania had previously allowed such an exception. But the new law enshrines the right to shechitah more formally.
Animal rights activists historically were most vehement advocates of the bans, but in recent years, European anti-immigration right-wing parties have joined the campaigns against ritual slaughter, mostly due to their opposition to Muslim immigrants.
In the rest of the EU, ritual slaughter is illegal in countries like Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Estonia, Slovenia and parts of Belgium. The Netherlands and Poland joined the list years ago but later reversed the bans.
Silviu Vexler, president of the Federation of Jewish Communities in Romania and the Jewish minority’s representative in Romania’s parliament, was present at the bill-signing, He called the law “a shining symbol to other countries throughout the world” and thanked Romania’s Chief Rabbi Rafael Schaffer for his role in advancing the legislation.
Romania’s Chamber of Deputies’ speaker, Marcel Ciolacu, said he is “proud to protect and support the Jewish community and Romania” and this legal safeguard will help Jews in the country to keep “practicing their faith freely.”