The Swiss Federal Assembly is to vote on whether to ban the import of kosher meat into the country, with the head of the country’s Jewish community describing such a move as a huge blow to religious freedom.
The bill, which was introduced to the Swiss parliament in June, would make it illegal to bring in any meat slaughtered in what the law would deem to be an inhumane fashion. This would include both kosher and halal meat, where the animal is still conscious at the point of slaughter. A date for the vote has not yet been scheduled.
According to the Tages Anzeiger newspaper, there has been strong opposition to the bill – not due to any perceived racist overtones, but rather because it would also ban foie gras, goose liver pâté, which is popular in Switzerland.
Herbert Winter, president of the Swiss Federation of Jewish Communities, said the bill would “be a massive limitation on the religious freedoms of Jews” in Switzerland. According to figures from the European Jewish Congress, the country’s Jewish community is around 18,000.
Switzerland has the world’s longest-standing ban on religious slaughter, which was brought into effect in 1893 after a plebiscite vote. According to the Federation, the move is “generally understood to have been an antisemitic act”.
Although the import of religiously slaughtered meat was not banned at the time, there have been several subsequent attempts to do so, most recently in 2003.