Polish supreme court ruling making the religious slaughter of animals illegal

30 November 2012    
Mara Bizzotto (EFD


This week Poland’s Constitutional Tribunal ruled that the religious slaughter of animals was illegal, on the grounds that it was against Polish law to allow animals to have their throats cut and bleed to death without having first been stunned. However, the EU-wide law which is due to come into effect shortly is expected to make this new Polish law illegal. Sweden is so far the only other EU state to have made the practice illegal on animal rights grounds. In view of the above, the Commission is asked to answer the following:
1.     Is it aware of this ruling in Poland? What analysis can it give of the matter? 
2.     If there is to be an EU-wide law supporting the religious slaughter of animals, what safeguards will be included to ensure that animal rights are protected as much as possible, given that animals will be slaughtered without having first been stunned?


Answer given by Mr Borg on behalf of the Commission
The Commission is aware of the Polish Constitutional Court ruling on ritual slaughter. The press release(1) states that the powers conferred on the minister in the Polish Law on protection of animals of 21 August 1997 were judged not broad enough to grant authorisations for slaughter without stunning. Hence the provision in question became inapplicable on 31 December 2012.

In the Union, Regulation (EC) No 1099/2009(2) is applicable. Its Article 3(1) provides that animals shall be spared any avoidable pain, distress or suffering during their killing and related operations. Article 4(1) states that animals shall only be killed after stunning in accordance with the methods stipulated in Annex I to that regulation.

By derogation from the above rule, Article 4(4) foresees killing of animals without prior stunning ‘in the case of animals subject to particular methods of slaughter prescribed by religious rites […] provided that the slaughter takes places in a slaughterhouse’. This derogation is justified by Recital 18(3).

Article 26(2)(c) provides that Member States may adopt national rules aimed at ensuring more extensive protection of animals at the time of killing than those contained in the regulation for animals subject to particular methods of slaughter prescribed by religious rites, where requirements for stunning do not apply. Member States must assess the consequences of such rules on animal welfare and on the freedom of religion as prescribed in Article 10 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights. Stricter rules concerning the protection of animals must be notified to the Commission; they may not affect the functioning of the internal market and must comply with the freedom to manifest religion or belief.(4)

(1)    U 4/12 available at http://www.trybunal.gov.pl/OTK/ezd/sprawa_lista_plikow.asp?syg=U%204/12.
(2)    OJ L 303, 18.11.2009, p. 1.
(3)    ‘Derogation from stunning in case of religious slaughter taking place in slaughterhouses was granted by Directive 93/119/EC. Since Community provisions applicable to religious slaughter have been transposed differently depending on national contexts and considering that national rules take into account dimensions that go beyond the purpose of this regulation, it is important that derogation from stunning animals prior to slaughter should be maintained, leaving, however, a certain level of subsidiarity to each Member State. As a consequence, this regulation respects the freedom of religion and the right to manifest religion or belief in worship, teaching, practice and observance, as enshrined in Article 10 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union.’.
(4)    in accordance with Articles 10(1) and 52(1) of the Charter of Fundamental Rights.