In the first covenant with God, the Noahic covenant, all animals were placed in the possession of the man. They are intended to serve as food. However, “flesh with its life-blood, you shall not eat.” Next, mysteriously sounding words are said, “I will demand your blood, for your lives, I shall demand it [even] from any wild animal”. (Genesis 9:5). According to Raszi, an 11th century commentator of the Torah, in this way a prohibition on eating meat from a living creature, in which still lives its soul was introduced. The ban on eating meat with the blood of an animal is repeated several times in the Pentateuch.
In the Torah there are no records of ritual slaughter. However, there is a series of very specific principles devoted to the treatment of animals by the Jews. On Sabbath, it is not allowed to herd them to work. It is ordered that before man feeds himself, first he needs to feed the animals. Newborn animals must remain with their mother at least for seven days.
It is forbidden to tie up the muzzle of an eating ox. In the Book of Exodus we read, “ If you come on your enemy’s ox or donkey straying, you will take it back to him. If you see the donkey of someone who hates you fallen under its load, do not stand back; you must go and help him with it.” Obviously, there are more such rules. All of them require to treat animals maybe not fondly, but certainly with understanding and care.
The same rules apply to ritual slaughter: Shechita
This order derives from the Talmud, where it is described precisely what the butcher knife should look like, which blessings shall be said, how an animal should be fed before the slaughter. The butcher himself, called in Hebrew shochet, is important. Before you take this job, you have to undergo five years of studying, learning the religious principles and animal anatomy. In some countries, you receive an annual license that must be renewed.
Generally, the act of slaughter is associated with cutting the carotid arteries, after which within 30–50 seconds the blood stops flowing to the brain. Blood flows from the head immediately. Is the moment before the kill painful? According to numerous studies: no. There is no reason to predict a build-up of tension in the animal. Perhaps it is due to the peace and expertise of the shochet. There is no evidence that non-factory ritual slaughter is more painful than killing by asphyxiation, stunning or by electricity in native slaughterhouses. One thing is certain: the animal is killed immediately. In the case of stunning it is not so obvious.
What is important here is the release of the blood. Meat without blood stores better, food connoisseurs appreciate it more, but the cleansing of the blood also has religious significance. In the Bible, the soul and life are connected with blood. The soul lives in blood, or at least that part of it which is called nefesh. If someone eats blood, it is as if they were consuming life. And it belongs to God. What should be eaten is meat and not an animal with its soul and life.
Maimonides wrote in the context of the precepts of ritual slaughter: „The pagans considered the blood as impure, but still they consumed it, because they thought that it was the blood of demons, and the one who consumed it could interact with them.” So ritual slaughter is also supposed to separate the Jews from the idolaters and pagans. Blood is also sometimes connected with shame. Man must be ashamed that he has drawn blood of an animal. Therefore, it must be saved and hidden.
Such teachings were kept by the Christians at the beginning of their history. „The Holy Spirit and we ourselves have favored adding no further burden to you, except these necessary things, to abstain from things sacrificed to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication. If you carefully keep yourselves from these things, you will prosper,” we read in the Acts of the Apostles (15, 28–29).
Ritual slaughter was established in order to reduce cruelty towards animals. In the Torah and Judaism there is no command to abstain from meat, but also, like many rabbis taught, at the age of light, will come the vegetarianism era. This, and no other type of killing has been chosen with full awareness. For the Jews following kashrut, these principles cannot be changed. They are valid in perpetuity. Imposing on Jews other dietary rules would undermine their religion. It does not matter whether it is done in the name of supposedly humanitarian principles or prejudices. The effect is the same. The prohibition of the slaughter is simply violation of Judaism. Those who voted for a ban on the slaughter, in fact, turned out to be (even against their conviction) persons who undermine and question the fundamentals of Judaism. And as we know, we cannot say that Judaism, as I have read in a column, will survive without the principles of kashrut, that it is not so important. This kind of reasoning is not only the evidence of poor knowledge of the author of this essay, but it is stupid and offensive.
The so-called humanitarian arguments that shechita causes tremendous pain to animals are highly questionable, but what is worse: they do not stand the test of experience. Reading the descriptions of the actions of the „humane” slaughterhouses, we learn that very often the animals are not fully stunned, and therefore they experience the pain of the killing more. Often, still on the living animal the cutting of the meat is performed, etc. If it is so, it is puzzling why the Sejm decided to deal only with ritual slaughter (a tiny percentage of the slaughter in Poland) rather than the slaughter in Polish style.
If we are to take concern for animal pain into consideration, the case seems to be much more serious. In my view, the MPs acted, and it was not for the first time, as hypocrites. They are pretending to be animal rights advocates, but at the same time they do not want to know and hear about what is happening in slaughterhouses on the massive scale. The same can probably be applied to hunting, although friends of mine, hunters, usually behave more honestly than humanitarian MPs and anti-Catholic columnists.
The Sejm, by a majority, passed a bill which is in fact anti-Judaic and smacks of the anti-Semitism. The MPs did not explicitly stated that the Jews, following the rules of kashrut (kosher food), support cruelty and that Judaism (and Islam) is a religion of violence against animals, which as a result means that this religion and its followers are worse and do not meet modern humanitarian requirements (with dubious justifications anyway). The Anti-Semitic background of this decision can be found also in three other circumstances.
First of all, there is a kind of historical and legal custom. Polish state has tolerated the Jews with their religion and customs for centuries. Only once in the pre-war legislation, a ban on ritual slaughter was passed, also referring to the well-being of animals. Everyone knew that this right had explicitly anti-Judaic character. The custom means that our history and past experience orders us to respect minority groups and their rights. These laws are autonomous and are not subject to restrictions. The last month’s law breached this custom.
Secondly, the introduction of the law, unfortunately, brings to mind the worst anti-Semitic practices during the growing anti-Semitism in the 30s. It is characteristic that after the war no European country implemented laws against ritual slaughter, and they did not do so, bearing in mind what these prohibitions meant before the war. Polish parliament referred to that time, ignoring disturbing memories and bad experience. It turned out that poor is the historical imagination among the MPs and that they do not know much about the past even though they want to talk about it in committees and in the upper House.
Thirdly, the law against ritual slaughter is contrary to the rule according to a higher law, and therefore the right to religious freedom, which European freedom order is based on. So the Polish parliament questioned the (subjective) right to freedom and thus threatened the religious freedoms not only of the Jews or Muslims. It decided that the right of a lower order (ritual slaughter) can be beyond human rights. It is a dangerous precedent, proving a very low legal culture of the House. That law menaces the religious rights of the Jews and Muslims.
There is one more circumstance that is not without significance. Polish nation has bad reputation of being anti-Semitic and intolerant. No matter how much effort we put in to change this image in the world, with one decision the parliament has openly confirmed that Poland is going back to its pre-war bad practices and the presence of racial prejudices can be felt. Therefore, one should be really careful as it comes to the Poles. I have found plenty of these kinds of statements on the internet.
It is said that the bill brings so much attention, because material interests of many farmers are under threat. Yes, they have been violated, and I see nothing wrong in a group of farmers producing food of ritual slaughter. If the Polish do not do it, immediately there will be competitors. The MPs could have at least thought about how to compensate this group of food producers for the loss. It is estimated that due to the law Poland may lose up to 2 billion zloty.
Hope is in the Senate or the President who will veto the bill or take it to the Constitutional Tribunal. The MPs once again have done a bad job, and moreover, which is less important, they have caused disagreement with their coalition partners. The arguing is getting serious. PSL now has to annoy the PO and so will the game take place until the election, which PO will lose and PSL will become PiS’s coalition.
There has been created a strange alliance of Rydzyk’s party with Magdalena Środa, Palikot’s party and several members of PO, who probably wanted to convince Donald Tusk, that the head of the parliamentary caucus had no control over him. It turns out that beyond boundaries, beyond the wars of atheists with Catholics-nationalists we have a warm friendship and community of ideas. What the party has in common is the alleged concern for the animals in the name of principles hostile to Judaism and Islam.