Animal rights advocates are up in arms over a new government bill that would allow slaughterhouses in the Republic of Cyprus to incorporate kosher rituals, a procedure described by animal rights activists as inhumane.
According to Cyprus News Agency, the President’s Cabinet approved a legislation proposal on Wednesday which would make kosher rituals legal in slaughterhouses across the country.
Government says bill will help farmers amid coronavirus crisis
CNA reported that the bill, which was being sponsored by the Agriculture Ministry, aimed at providing a lifeline to Cypriot livestock farmers whose sales have dropped due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Following the Cabinet meeting, the Green Party issued a statement on Thursday condemning the religious slaughter of animals without the use of anesthetic.
“We respect all religious traditions and rituals but we take a stand against this horrible slaughter method without tranquilizers,” the green party said.
The proposed legislation would allow local slaughterhouses to process livestock according to the Kosher ritual, requiring that animals be healthy and uninjured prior to slaughter
Slaughterhouses are required by law to treat livestock humanely, including pre-slaughter handling, stunning, and slaughtering. But according to kosher traditions, injured animals, as well as administering electric shock to an animal prior to slaughtering, is prohibited because it is believed to render the incapacitated animal unfit for consumption.
The proposed legislation would allow local slaughterhouses to process livestock legally according to the Kosher ritual, known as shechita or shechitah, which requires that animals be healthy and uninjured prior to slaughter.
Shehitah usually involves a ”shackle-and-hoist” method of restraining certain types of animals, and it must be carried out by means of a swift, smooth cut of a sharp knife whose blade is free of any dent or imperfection.
Observant Jews believe that eating non-kosher food is spiritually unsafe, while according to the bill, a rabbi must be allowed into slaughterhouses to oversee the process, serving as a supervisor or mashgiach.
Kosher and halal wars in Europe
In Europe, a debate rages on over halal and kosher slaughter, with many countries introducing bans while in Poland a similar kosher law was reversed by the country’s Supreme Court.
Officials from Miloubar Cyprus, a local firm that represents an Israeli group on the island, told CNA that halal and kosher methods are not illegal in the European Union.
Foreign reports said some concessions have been proposed by some Orthodox rabbis, including post-cut stunning and other modern methods that do not injure the animal as specified by Jewish law.
Government says law only temporary
The Cypriot government says the proposed legislation is in accordance with European directives and the bill would make kosher slaughter legal only through the end of December 2020.
But according to CNA, livestock producers have been calling in the past for exports of kosher meat to Israel, with their efforts being challenged by animal rights advocates and organizations.
Company says kosher does not violate animal rights
The company official reportedly said that kosher slaughter does not violate animal welfare, telling CNA that Jewish rituals require that the procedure moves slowly in sharp contrast with mass production, while a rabbi is chanting a prayer to calm the distressed animal throughout the process.
In a kosher chicken-killing ritual last year, reported in a story in the US, a rabbi chanted a prayer. The report went on to say that the still-alive chickens were meant to symbolically absorb the sins of the believers, and following the ceremony, the chickens’ throats were slit.
“We’re going to return your soul to heaven, your blood to the earth,” the rabbi said in a calming voice while petting the bird, “and nourish our bodies with your flesh.”
Local market for kosher meat
Several thousands of Jewish people living in Cyprus could also benefit from kosher meat processed in Cyprus, as local production is estimated to cost lower than imported prices.
Local officials also pointed out to CNA that local livestock farmers could benefit from the kosher market, satisfying both local needs including incoming tourists as well as exporting to Israel and other Jewish communities.
The bill is expected to reach the House next week.