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Ritual slaughter

Ritual Slaughter in Greece and the EU

Author: Athanasios Rozou
Published: 04/05/2017

The Greek Joint Ministerial Decision 951/44337/2017 Maintains the Exemption of Ritual Slaughter From the Obligation of Stunning Animals Prior to Slaughter. That Exemption has Existed since 1996.

The necessary complementary measures for the implementation of Council Regulation (EC) No. 1099/2009 are defined by Greek Joint Ministerial Decision 951/44337/2017 (Government Gazette 1447 / Β / 27.04.2017), with regard to the ritual slaughter of animals in slaughterhouses. This JMC regulation has been in force since April 27, 2017, and sets out the terms and conditions under which the slaughter of animals shall take place.

The publication of the Joint Ministerial Decision generated lots of feedback in social media, mainly due to the provision in Article 2, paragraph 1, which states that "animals which are ritually slaughtered, need not be stunned before slaughter under the condition that the slaughter is carried out at a slaughterhouse and that the requirements of Article 15 (2) of the Regulation are complied with"(meaning of Council Regulation (EC) No 1099/2009 of 24 September 2009). The exemption from the obligation to stun animals prior to ritual slaughter was not initially introduced by the Greek legal system by the above ministerial decision.

Council Regulation (EC) No 1099/2009 of 24 September 2009

Referenced above, Council Regulation (EC) No 1099/2009 , laid down the rules for the killing of animals which are bred or kept for food, wool, leather, fur, or other products. It also covered the killing of animals for depopulation and related operations. Moreover, the Regulation has been in place since 1 January 2013, and is binding on all EU Member States.

Exemption from the Stunning Obligation of Animals Slaughtered in Accordance With Presidential Decree 327/1996

At the same time, the derogation from the obligation to stun animals in cases of ritual slaughter in slaughterhouses was established at the EU level well before and specifically since 1993. Under Directive 93/119/EC, Article 5 (2) exempted stunning before the slaughter or the instantaneous killing of animals in compliance with some religious rites that require special methods of slaughter. The Directive was incorporated into the Greek legal system under Presidential Decree 327/1996 (Government Gazette A 221 / 10.09.1996: Protection of animals at the time of slaughter and / or killing in compliance with Council Directive 93/119/EC). In particular, Article 5 of Presidential Decree 327/1996 stipulates that solipeds, ruminants, pigs, rabbits, and poultry imported into slaughterhouses for slaughter must, inter alia, be stunned before slaughter or be killed instantaneously. At the same time, Presidential Decree 327/1996 introduces an exception to this general rule under paragraph 2 of the same article, according to which this obligation does not apply to animals for which certain religious rites require special methods of slaughter.

The Exploitation of the Publication of the Joint Ministerial Decision 951/44337/2017 for Vote-Seeking Purposes

According to the above, the ritual slaughter of the animals without prior stunning has been allowed in our country, since 1996, under Presidential Decree 327/1996. Joint Ministerial Decision 951/44337/2017, as explicitly referred to in Article 8 thereof, simply repeals the Presidential Decree 327/1996, while retaining the above exception from stunning. Since all Member States are obliged to incorporate EU Directives into their legal systems within the specific timeframes set by each Directive, this regulation—however “inhumane”—has been incorporated into the Greek legal system.

Therefore, in response to negative feedback on social media, politicians have now called for the immediate withdrawal of the Joint Ministerial Decision 951/44337/2017. They cite its insensitivity and animosity, apparently ignoring that the ritual slaughter of animals without prior stunning has been allowed in Greece since 1996, and that a possible revocation of the JMC would simply entail the continuation of the Presidential Decree 327/1996, which introduced the above regulation first.

The Unfortunate Greek Rendition of Directive 93/119/EC

The term “ritual slaughter” refers to the slaughter of animals exclusively for eating according to a specific ritual protocol, possibly imposed by certain religions such as Judaism and Islam. The term does not cover the slaughter of an animal as a “sacrifice” in a religious ritual. Unfortunately, the Greek Presidential Decree 327/1996 confuses the original English text of Directive 93/11 /EC “in the case of ritual slaughter” with “σε περίπτωση σφαγής για θρησκευτικούς λόγους” (English: “in the case of slaughter on religious grounds”). The expression used by the Presidential Decree does not define that “the slaughter on religious grounds” excludes the slaughter for other purposes except food.