Helsinki, February 20th, 2023 – The Finnish parliament has reversed its plan to ban religious slaughter as part of a broader overhaul of its animal welfare legislation.
After the Constitutional Law Committee voted 10-5 against the ban late last week, the Agricultural Committee, which had prepared the legislation for more than a year, reversed its plan and voted 10-3 for allowing meat production compatible with Jewish and Muslim religious traditions, that is shechita and halal slaughter.
In a statement in Helsinki on Monday ECI Founding Director Tomas Sandell welcomed the decision which he called “a major victory for minority rights, especially the right for the Jewish and Muslim communities to practice their religions.”
ECI has been following the legislative process closely. Last year in October Sandell wrote an op-ed in the Finnish daily Hufvudstadsbladet, warning for the international repercussions in case the government went ahead with its plan to outlaw religious slaughter. The Finnish government hopes to host the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Helsinki Accords in 1975 which is widely regarded as a milestone event for the promotion of fundamental freedoms and human rights, including religious freedom. Banning religious slaughter just two years before such an anniversary would have cast serious doubts about the government’s commitment to minority rights.
At a symposium in Berlin in January 2022, ECI issued a statement in support for the right of the Jewish communities to practice their religion signed by representatives for major Christian and Jewish organizations. The issue was further raised in a televised European Report talk show in the European Parliament the following month with the Vice-President of the European Parliament, Nicola Beer and the CEO of the Conference of European Rabbis Foundation, Gadi Gronich, which both raised their concern about the proposed ban on religious slaughter in Finland.
In a statement prior to the vote of the Constitutional Law Committee, Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto issued a statement noting that the proposed ban had raised serious concerns in the international community, thus implying that it could have negative repercussions for the national interest.
The new animal welfare legislation is expected to pass the vote in the plenary session in the coming days, although the proposed ban on religious slaughter is removed.