On the 17th of December, the grand chamber of the Court of Justice of the European Union ruled1 in favor of the regional governments of the Flemish and Walloon regions of Belgium, finding their prohibition of shechitah without stunning is legal. This is a tragedy for Jewish communities throughout Europe. It was Belgium’s Jewish community last hope for a quick resolution of the Shechitah crisis, which had come into force on January 1st 2019.
Recently, the Conference of Polish [Catholic] Bishops issued a statement in favor of protecting the right of the Jewish and Muslim communities to continue slaughtering large and small cattle in accordance with their religious traditions, without stunning the animals prior to slaughter. In this matter, they thus sided with the government, that the basic human right of free exercise of religion, including the right to eat in accordance to one’s moral-religious convictions, supersedes animal rights legislation when the two contradict each other.
This is a courageous and praiseworthy move, and it is not the first time that the Catholic Church has interceded on behalf of Jews’ right to practice shechita. As the letter below, which appears in the book Pius XII and the Jews, shows, when the Polish government in 1938 considered banning shechita, the then Secretary of State of the Vatican Cardinal Eugenio Pacelli undertook to lobby the Polish government to drop the proposed ban.