Kosher slaughter cannot be legalized, the Polish parliament decided on Friday. A
government sponsored bill aimed at legalizing the practice of shechita, Hebrew
for ritual slaughter, was shot down in the Sejm in a vote of 222 to
A ban on shechita went into effect in January. Combined with a
decline in meat exports due to Poland’s implication in the European-wide horse
meat scandal, the end of local ritual slaughter has caused harm to the eastern
European country’s cattle ranchers and exporters.
Meat producers and
animal breeders have been protesting in front of the Polish Parliament demanding
the reinstatement of kosher slaughter.
They claim that they have suffered
losses of hundreds of millions of zlotys due to the ban.
Poland was one of the largest exporters of kosher meat to Israel and a few
Muslim countries such as Turkey, Egypt and Iran.
Poland’s revenue from
kosher meat exports were estimated at half a billion euro per
Opponents of the practice said that was no
“Even if we were talking about significant losses – and
we’re not – there is no permission for animal cruelty in the name of money,”
said Andrzej Rozenek, a leader of the leftist Palikot Movement.
Poland’s supreme court ruled that an exemption for religious Muslims and Jews in
a law requiring the stunning of animals prior to slaughter was
The government had hoped the proposed law would allow
Polish abattoirs to resume production of kosher meat. The result of the vote
came as a shock to leaders of the country’s Jewish community and ilicited strong
responses from the community world wide.
“The completely untrue idea that
such slaughter is cruel, or even intentionally cruel, has triumphed,” Piotr
Kadlcik, president of the Union of Jewish Communities of Poland, and Chief Rabbi
of Poland Michael Schudrich said in a statement.
“This idea gained
popularity in Europe in the 1930s, when Norway and Sweden, under the influence
of Nazi propaganda, banned ritual slaughter,” the statement
The Polish ban, they lamented, is now the first in the
European Union that is not the direct result of “Nazi-era
Calling the ban a direct infringement on the religious
liberties of Muslims and Jews, Schudrich and Kadlcik said that followers of
these two faiths will now “be forced to either buy more expensive imported meat,
or endorse an enforced vegetarianism.”
“This decision is a slap in the
face of Jews and Muslims alike,” Ronald S. Lauder, president of the World Jewish
Congress said in a statement Friday. “It is a bitter blow for all those who
undertook great strides to bring about a renaissance of Jewish life in Poland. I
am wondering what sort of message those who voted in favor of the ban wanted to
send to their non- Christian citizens.”
“Today, the country that once had
the largest Jewish community in the world has become the first European country
since World War II to ban religious slaughter.”
Severyn Ashkenazy, the
founder of the Progressive Jewish community of Poland, had an opposite
“Some of our leaders are confused.... Kosher slaughter has been
subject to too many documented scandals. We, Jews, must behave honorably and
lead in kindness to animals,” he said. “We used to take the kosher slaughter
seriously and the shohet [ritual slaughterer] was a respected member of the
We live in the greatest scientific century, would we not
rather trust a doctor in veterinary medicine than a mashgiah [kashrut
inspector]?” The Conference of European Rabbis announced they will ask for an
urgent meeting with Prime Minister Donald Tusk and review their legal options
for challenging the decision. In a statement condemning the decision, the
conference said it was “a very sad day for Polish Jews and for all European
“We urge Poland’s legislative and judicial authorities to move
expeditiously to recognize by law the Jewish community’s right to prepare kosher
meat according to Jewish tradition,” David Harris, head of the American Jewish
Committee, said in a statement.
“It would be beyond shocking if a
democratic Poland prevented kosher slaughter, which is so integral to Jewish
life in the country,” Harris added.
Abraham H. Foxman, National Director
of the Anti- Defamation League, said that in regular polling, Polish attitudes
showed “a consistently high level of anti-Semitism with almost half of Poles
harboring multiple anti-Semitic prejudices.”
Nissan Tzur and Reuters contributed to this report.