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Abattage rituel en Bulgarie

Since the Ottoman times, ritual slaughter in the Bulgarian lands is observed by the local communities who belong to the Abrahamic religions. Christians in Bulgaria associate it mainly with Easter when lambs are slaughtered on the eve of Easter, while Jews and Muslims consider ritual slaughter as a religious norm that has a direct effect on their everyday religious diet. Each of these faith communities observes its own specific rites and customs, where their ministers play a key role by performing necessary religious services (prayers, blessings, etc.). The process of animal slaughter is elaborated in great detail in the case of Islam and Judaism where muftis and rabbis supervise the selection of the animals in correspondence of the requirements of their religious traditions, the slaughtering, and the food production.

The ritual slaughtering in Bulgaria has never been a subject of civil legislation. A more detailed study of the historical sources, however, can reveal some occasional regulations of the state of municipal authorities. For example, there is an indirect reference to ritual slaughter in the Provisional Regulations, issued by the Bulgarian State in 1880 (i.e. two years upon its liberation from the centuries of Ottoman rule). Its Article 45 enlists the purchase of meat as one of the main incomes of the Jewish synagogue.

Since this moment, the issue of ritual slaughter in Bulgaria remains outside the scope of researchers. The normative rules regarding slaughtering, food production and consumption are entirely under the supervision of the corresponding religious leaderships. During communism, these traditions were suppressed and conducted mainly at the still functioning mosques and synagogues, often secretly.

After the fall of communism, the Muslim and Jewish religious communities have obtained anew the opportunity to freely observe the religious norms regarding their religious dietary norms. Until 2007, when Bulgaria joined the European Union, the Jewish community used its own slaughterhouse. Under the EU regulations, however, it had to be closed down. The Jewish community in Bulgaria is too small (about 1200 Jews in Sofia, 500 in Plovdiv and another thousand spread around the country), and very few observe strictly the kosher rule. It was too expensive to modernize and maintain their slaughterhouse. Thus, they started using firms where animals are slaughtered for the Muslim community (mainly in the areas with compact Muslim population as Dzhebel or Asenovgrad). They also began to invite a shohet (ritual slaughterer) from Israel, who comes 3-4 times a year to prepare the necessary quantity of meat. Together with the rabbi and two believers, he goes to the slaughterhouse with which an agreement has been concluded and slaughter about 1000 chicken and 25 calves. The meat is then certified with special stamps, and deep-frozen to be used later on for the Jewish kindergarten and elderly house in Sofia as well as for the Shabbat lunches at Sofia synagogue, the only one currently functioning in Bulgaria. Several Jewish families also regularly buy kosher meat.

As the Muslim community is much bigger, the Islamic ritual slaughter is more developed. In 1997, the community joined the Muslim Halal Food Council and started issuing special halal certificates. In parallel, the Bulgarian chief mufti’s office appointed a special official who is in charge of the production of halal food, controls the whole process and issues the corresponding certificates. Each consignment receives its own certificate. It is of special importance for Bulgarian firms that export poultry products for the Muslim countries.

In 2012, the chief mufti’s office in Bulgaria set up a special halal commission that consists of four members with higher Muslim theological education. One of these members also has a diploma of engineer in chemistry and food industry. In parallel, a special statute was issued to regulate the whole process of the production, transportation, and use of the halal food. In the following years, the Bulgarian Halal Commission was certified by the halal organization of the United Arab Emirates, which allows it to export halal food for countries such as Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman, etc.

Halal Certification Procedure

A firm that wants to produce halal food is subject to a special inspection by the halal commission, which first investigates the corresponding documents, and then visits the firm of to inspect the conditions for food production on the spot. The Commission investigates the origins of the raw material, the technology of the food production, and everything required by the halal statute for the issuance of the certificate for the specific consignment. In this regard, it also pays attention to the kind and quality of the food supplements and the cleanness of the used materials (as prescribed by sharia law) not only during the process of production, but also during the packing, transportation and storage of the ready products. Each certificate is recorded in special registers and kept, together with the necessary documents, in the archives of the chief mufti’s office.

The author owes special gratitude to Beyhan Mehmed, director of the administrative direction at the chief mufti’s office, and Stella Behar from the Sofia synagogue for the information provided about the ritual slaughtering in their religious communities.

D 17 janvier 2019    ADaniela Kalkandjieva

CNRS Unistra Dres Gsrl

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