The Polish parliament is preparing to vote on a bill that proposes to limit the export of kosher meat, a European Jewish lobby group said.
The 48-page bill on animal welfare is neither focused on the ritual slaughter of animals — which was in 2013 was banned in Poland but legalised again due to a high court ruling in 2014 – nor does it propose to ban the custom anew, according to the Jewish Association of Europe. But it does to propose “restrictions on exporting kosher meat from Poland, which would affect a very large part of the Jewish communities in Europe,” the EJA said in a statement Monday.
Polish kosher and halal abattoirs are a major source of meat for retailers across the European Union and beyond.
Violation of the restrictions, which the EJA did not specify, may lead to four years in jail. The Sejm, the lower house of the Polish parliament, is scheduled to vote on the bill this week, according to EJA.
The bill would also prohibit slaughtering animals when they are “in an unnatural state,” a stipulation which is though to mean when they are standing up. This “makes it very difficult to perform kosher slaughter due to some kashrut laws that forbid to apply any pressure on the knife to protect the animal from unnecessary pain,” EJA Chairman Rabbi Menachem Margolin said. Preventing this pressure “is not possible when the animal is standing, and its head is leaning heavily on the knife,” he added.
Opponents of ritual slaughter of animals say that the kosher and halal methods are cruel, though advocates of the methods reject this. Both in Judaism and in Islam, animals must be conscious when their necks are cut for their meat to be allowed for consumption for observant individuals following those faiths. Judaism has a greater number of restrictions than Islam on who may slaughter animals and how.
“These restrictions on kosher slaughter are in complete contradiction to the principle of freedom of religion of the European Union,” Margolin said. “The situation in Poland is unacceptable,” he added. Margolin;’s statement also noted the passing last week of a bill that criminalises suggesting that the Polish state or nation are responsible for crimes carried out by the Nazis during World War II. The State of Israel, the United States and many Jewish groups worldwide oppose the legislation.
A spokesman for Shechita UK said, “we have been working closely with Polish Chief Rabbi Schudrich and are monitoring this situation as it develops.”