Geneva – In an address before the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, the World Jewish Congress (WJC) called on its members to recognize as violations any bans or limitations on the right to practice Jewish and Muslim ritual slaughter of animals or and male circumcision.
In delivering the address, Lisa Rahmani, a member of the WJC’s Jewish Diplomatic Corps program, also asked that UN Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Religion or Belief, Heiner Bielefeldt, take the same stance when preparing his next report for the council.
Rahmani called both rituals “cornerstones of Jewish religious practice” dating back “thousands of years,” and said that “The Universal Declaration of Human Rights protects the right of individuals and communities to manifest their religion or beliefs freely.”
Rahmani pointed out that “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.”
In pointing out contradictions in the stances against the rituals taken by opponents, Rahmani said, “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 conclusion, Rahmani said, “Respectfully, we call on the Special Rapporteur to recognize that these practices are forms of religious expression; to recognize that they are not trumped by other values; and to ask him to consider limitations on ritual slaughter and circumcision as violations of freedom of religion in his next report to the Council.”
In a separate statement, WJC CEO Robert Singer said, “We call on the governments of all UN member states to stop any attempts to abridge these crucial religious freedoms. 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.”