The Lithuanian parliament has legalized the ritual slaughter of livestock in a move that is expected to help farmers hit by Russia's food import ban to sell their production to Muslim markets.
© Reuters/Scanpix

The Seimas on Tuesday backed the government's proposal to allow the slaughter of non-stunned animals according to religious requirements starting next year in an effort to help Lithuanian exporters enter new markets and thus compensate for their losses in Russia.

Conservative MP Kazys Starkevičius said that ritual slaughter is a more humane way than transporting animals to other countries where they are slaughtered according to the same religious requirements.

Authors of the amendments say that legalization of the ritual slaughter has become even more important after Russia banned food and agricultural product imports from the European Union.

However, the Lithuanian Animal Rights Protection Organization sees the amendments as a big step backwards in the area of animal rights protection.

Open up Asian markets

Amendments to the Law on Welfare and Protection of Animals will enable Lithuania to start exporting faster to countries were animals are required to be slaughtered according to religious rites, says Prime Minister Algirdas Butkevičius.

According to the prime minister, as a result of the embargo imposed on Lithuania by Russia, active work is ongoing with Asian countries.

"We see no other choice after Russia imposed the embargo on Lithuanian food products. Russian market is vast and there are companies whose export to Russia comprises a substantial share of the total export volume," the prime minister said in an interview to the national radio on Tuesday.

"I believe the law would facilitate entering those countries which require for it to be adopted in Lithuania and such slaughter procedures would be applied. I evaluate this very positively," said Butkevičius.

Repelling criticism of animal rights advocates that animals would be slaughtered without stunning which would be a step back in animal rights, Butkevičius said a solution can be found.

"I think there should be a middle way, because not all animals would be slaughtered like this but only a portion that would be exported to certain Asian countries," the head of the government said.

It is thought that authorisation of slaughter of animals in accordance to religious rite would facilitate export to Muslim countries and Israel.

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