Two of the most fundamental Jewish rites -- circumcision and kosher slaughter -- are increasingly being challenged in Europe.
Brit milah, ritual circumcision of newborn male children, is a core religious rite of Judaism, practiced by Jews around the world. Government restrictions on the age of the child or on mohelim, Jewish ritual circumcisors, and government requirements for a declaration of adherence to Judaism as a condition for a legal brit milah, are intolerable burdens on the free exercise of religion by Jews.
The incidence of medical complications from circumcisions performed by trained mohelim is miniscule and does not merit government regulation of brit milah.
Government requirements that all animals be stunned before slaughter would constitute a de facto ban on shechita, or kosher slaughter. Pre-slaughter stunning renders the animal unfit to use for kosher meat.
Proposals have been made in several European countries to ban the slaughter of unstunned animals, despite the fact that ritual slaughter is specifically authorized by the Council of Europe Convention for the Protection of Animals for Slaughter and the European Directives of 22 December 1993 (PDF) and 18 November 1974, which state that it is necessary "to take account of the particular requirements of certain religious rites.”
These proposals are based on the false premise that shechita, which involves a single cut with a razor-sharp knife to minimize pain, is less humane than slaughter with pre-stunning by electrocution, gassing or a bolt shot to the animal's forehead. A 2004 peer-reviewed paper, "Physiological Insights Into Shechita," by Dr. Stuart Rosen of Imperial College in London, concluded that "shechitah is a painless and humane method of animal slaughter." Other recent scientific studies have similarly shown that shechita is no less humane than other methods.
Jews must not be put to the choice of violating a central tenet of Judaism, foregoing fresh meat, or emigrating to a country where kosher meat is available.
ADL has taken a leading role in combating these infringements of religious freedom.