Poland, Lithuania divided over ritual animal slaughter

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In a war of words, or perhaps just a business opportunity, Lithuania has taken a step towards legalizing the ritual slaughter of livestock for food, seeking to expand its exports after neighboring Poland imposed a ban, reported Agence France-Presse on Wednesday.

“Arab countries and Israel represent new opportunities for meat exporters,” lawmaker Vytautas Gapsys, who tabled the draft legislation, told parliament.

The European Union guidelines for livestock slaughter insist that animal suffering is minimalized.

However, religious groups are exempted from a requirement under law that says that animals must be stunned before death.

Ritual slaughter was been banned in Poland on January 1 after its Constitutional Court deemed it incompatible with animal rights legislation.

Poland's Muslim community decided to refrain from the ancient tradition of animal sacrifice for the Eid al-Adha holiday amid protests by animal rights activists.

“For the first time in hundreds of years, there was no ritual slaughter here today for the Eid feast,” Michal Adamowicz, a spokesman for the community, said Tuesday in the Muslim Tatar village of Bohoniki, eastern Poland.

Under age-old kosher and halal rules, animals are slaughtered by slitting their throats without first being stunned.

In an outcry against the new legislation, leaders of Poland's Muslim and Jewish religious minorities have argued that the ban violates constitutionally guaranteed religious freedoms.

Polish Muslims say that the ban, which has spurred intense debate both at home and abroad, is invalid under European law; the Jewish community has asked the top court to rule on the matter.

“Please respect our rights, please respect the Constitution and the heritage of Muslims and Polish Tatars, without emotion, in a civilised way,” Miskiewicz told reporters.

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