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L’abattage religieux en Roumanie

The social setting of the question of religious slaughter

The subject of religious slaughter is quasi-unknown to the Romanian society and very little researched by the Romanian specialists. This is caused by the fact that this subject is raised by the confrontation of Human Rights and Animal Rights, which both became topics of the public debate only after the fall of communism in 1989, and especially after 2000 when negotiations for Romania’s accession to the EU intensified. Another cause may be the very low share in Romania’s total population of the communities directly related to this issue : the Jewish and Muslim communities.
Even though the Romanian debate on religious slaughter is at an early stage, and its impact on public policies is very limited, a brief look at the history of the Jewish and Muslim communities in Romania shows that religious slaughter has a very long history on today’s Romanian territory.
The Jewish minority has become significant in numerical, but also in economic and cultural terms, since the 19th century. According to the official census of 1930, the total number of Jews in Romania was 756,930. Because of antisemitism and the atheist communist regime, in the 20th century, most of the Jews in Romania emigrated to Israel and to Western countries. Thus, for the 2011 census, only 3519 persons declared themselves as Jews. The restrictive laws (until 1919, Jews could not acquire the Romanian citizenship), which prevented Jews from occupying positions in the Romanian State or possessing land, caused the Jews to move towards trades in commerce. In 1884 in Bucharest, the capital of Romania, there were 131 Jewish butchers out of a total of 847, that is 27%. It can be naturally presumed that the main part, if not the entire stock, of meat sold by the Jewish butchers was kosher. Documents from the same time discuss cities where the taxes for the kosher meat merchants were very high in order to protect the meat trade of the majority population, but also to prevent the Jews from establishing themselves in those localities.
As for Islam, in present-day Romania, it is followed by only 0.3% of population (64,337 Muslims) according to the 2011 census.

Legal provisions concerning religious slaughter in Romania

From the point of view of legal provisions concerning religious slaughter, Romania is part of the long list of European countries (see DIALREL) that allows the religious slaughter. Only five countries members of EU (Latvia, Sweden, Slovenia, Finland, Denmark – Poland, which banned religious slaughter without prior stunning in 2013, cancelled its decision at the end of 2014, because it was considered unconstitutional) do not permit the slaughter of animal without previous stunning.
From the perspective of regulations, Romania follows the requirements of the EU on this matter. The present legal provisions in force are synthesized in art. 2 par. (2), art. 5 par. (2) of Decision 180/11.08.2006 of the National Sanitary Veterinary and Food Safety Authority (abbreviated in Romanian - ANSVSA) for approval of the sanitary veterinary norm on the protection of animals during slaughter and killing :
Art. 2 (2) In the case of religious slaughters, the religious authority for which slaughter is practiced will have the competence to apply and monitor the specific provisions applicable to slaughter in accordance with certain religious rituals. Regarding the aforementioned provisions, the religious authority will act under the responsibility of an official veterinarian, according to the provisions of art. 2 of the Sanitary Veterinary Norm regarding the health conditions for the production and marketing of fresh meat, approved by Order of the minister of agriculture, food and forests no. 401/2002, published in the Official Monitor of Romania, Part I, no. 32 of 22 January 2003 transposing Council Directive 64/433/EEC.
Art. 5 (1) The solipeds, ruminants, pigs, rabbits and birds brought to slaughterhouses for slaughter shall be : c) stunned before slaughter or killed instantaneously in accordance with the provisions of Annex no. 3 :
(2) For animals subject to particular slaughter methods required by some religious rituals, paragraph (1) point c) will not apply.

The Romanian institution that gives the derogation from the requirement of stunning of animals before slaughter, ANSVSA, drafted a Guide on the protection of animals at the time of sacrifice which details the steps of obtaining permission to perform religious sacrifices.
Therefore, to carry out the religious slaughter, the operators who hold authorized slaughterhouses for intra-community trade must submit the following documents to the Sanitary Veterinary and Food Safety Departments :
 Request for exemption from stunning of animals to be ritually sacrificed, containing detailed information on the species of animals concerned, their number and date, and the days the ritual sacrifice is scheduled at the slaughterhouse in question ;
 Photocopy of the attestation document issued by the respective religious authority, constituted and recognized as a legal person of public utility according to the provisions of Law no. 489/2006 on religious freedom and the general regime of denominations, by which the abattoir is recognized to perform the ritual cutting.
Based on these documents, in case the slaughterhouse receives the acceptance for religious slaughter, a representative of the County Sanitary Veterinary and Food Safety Directorate visits the abattoir to verify if it meets the sanitary veterinary requirements on the protection and welfare of the animals.
In theory, it is quite easy for a Romanian abattoir, authorized for commerce in EU, to obtain the permission for religious slaughter, but in practice the most important aspect of this process is the attestation received from religious authorities. Both Jewish and Muslim denominations are recognized by the Romanian state. The certificates they emit for kosher and halal products are valid for only one year, and then need to be renewed.
According to the latest statistics, in Romania 20 halal and 5 kosher authorized slaughterhouses are currently approved to carry out religious slaughter. For the month of June 2017, the meat production from animals (poultry) slaughtered according to kosher religious ritual is 298 tons, and meat production from animals (cattle, sheep and poultry) slaughtered according to the halal religious ritual is 10254 tons. If we relate these figures to the number of Jews and Muslims residing in Romania, it becomes obvious that most of the meat production obtained after religious slaughters is intended for export.
In the end, for Romania, the religious slaughter has largely an economic meaning. The kosher and halal certificates bring with them several advantages for the meat producers who obtain them : a larger market and a better price for meat products. Its geographical position, but also previous politic and economic relationship with the countries of the Near East, make Romania an important actor on the meat exports market to Muslim majority countries. After Poland banned in 2013 the religious slaughter, Romania signed a contract for the delivery of halal meat to Jordan, a country that once imported much of its meat from Poland.

 A comprehensive study on religious slaughter in all countries of EU, 2006-2010, DIALREL program funded by the European Union, 2017.
 National Institute of Statistics Romania, What does the 2011 Census tell us about Religion ?, 2013.
 Iordan Bărbulescu, Gabriel Andreescu, "Animal stunning, the EU, and the Romanian lobby", Romanian Journal of Bioethics, Vol. 8, No. 1, January-March 2010, p. 190-199.

D 17 janvier 2019    AGabriel Birsan

CNRS Unistra Dres Gsrl

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