World Jewish Congress calls on UN Human Rights Council

World Jewish Congress calls on UN Human Rights Council: Bans on kosher, halal slaughter violates religious freedom of Jews, Muslims

Written by Maureen Shamee

The United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHCR) in Geneva.
The United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHCR) in Geneva.

NEW YORK/GENEVA (EJP)—The World Jewish Congress (WJC) has called on the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva to recognize as violations of religious freedom any bans or limitations on the right to practice Jewish and Muslim ritual slaughter of animals and male circumcision.

“We call on the governments of all UN member states to stop any attempts to abridge these crucial religious freedoms,” said WJC CEO Robert Singer.

The call came as an increasing number of government have take action to condemn and ban these religious practices.

“We hope that the UN Human Rights Council, via its Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief, will issue a clear statement that bans or limitations on religious slaughter and circumcision are attacks on fundamental liberties, and that the affirmation of those liberties will serve to deter such attacks.”

In a statement delivered before the UN Human Rights Council in session this week in Geneva, Lisa Rahmani, a member of the WJC’s Jewish Diplomatic Corps program called on UN Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Religion or Belief Heiner Bielefeldt “to consider limitations on ritual slaughter and circumcision as violations of freedom of religion in his next report to the Council.” Bielefeldt is expected to complete his report next year.

In her statement, she stressed that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights protects the right of individuals and communities to manifest their religion or beliefs freely.

‘’Ritual slaughter, known as shechita, and the tradition of circumcision, which dates back thousands of years, are cornerstones of Jewish religious practice,’’ she added.

She continued, ‘’Judaism was the first culture to teach that animals, and even plants, should be treated with respect, at a time when humanity had not begun to think in terms of animal rights. Quite conveniently, some prefer to ignore the origin of the values they claim to defend.”

‘’If opponents of shechita really cared about animals, they would have banned, for example, the cooking of live seafood in pots of boiling water; they would have banned force-feeding of geese and ducks; they would have banned hunting for sport.’’

‘’But they did not. Instead they chose to attack ritual slaughter – be it shechita practiced by Jews, or halal practiced by Muslims.”

‘’In the same way, it is ironic and distressing to observe that circumcision is considered to be a mutilation when performed for religious reason, but is acceptable, and often encouraged, if performed for medical reason’’ Lisa Rahmani stated at the Human Rights Council.