Ritual Slaughter Ban Upheld in Poland

July 15, 2013

3 min read

Ritual Slaughter Ban

“People of holiness shall you be to Me; you shall not eat flesh of an animal that was torn in the field, to the dog shall you throw it.” (Exodus 22:30)

Ritual Slaughter Ban
Polish animal rights demonstrators hold a rally in Warsaw opposing ritual slaughter, or shechitah, July 11, 2013. (Empatia PL Facebook)

In a 222-178 decision, Polish parliament rejected a bill that would reinstate ritual slaughter in the country.  In December, Poland declared it illegal to ritually slaughter animals.  Both Jewish and Muslim communities are affected by this ban, which covers both Kosher and Halal meat.

Until December, Poland was a leading supplier of Kosher and Halal meat to Israel and several Muslim-majority countries, an industry which earned $650 million annually.  Since then, business has ground to a halt, prompting local farmers to demonstrate in favor of reinstating ritual slaughter in the country.   On Wednesday, farmers marched in Warsaw, however, this was not enough to convince parliament to change its mind.

The ban was first instituted after a constitutional court ruled the country had no right to allow ritual slaughter.  The court was ruling on a petition brought by animal rights groups.

Observant Jews follow the biblical command to eat only Kosher animals which have been ritually slaughtered “as I have commanded you.” (Deuteronomy 12:21)  Although the bible never specifies what God commanded in terms of method, Jewish oral tradition has a detailed litany of laws describing the ritual.  Generally, Jewish law is concerned for the suffering of the animal; certain signs of suffering render the animal not Kosher.

Jewish leaders the world over have responded with condemnation to the upheld ban.  Abraham Foxman, of the Anti Defamation League, said, “The majority of Polish MPs gave the Polish Jewish community three choices: don’t practice your religion, don’t eat meat, or don’t live among us.  For a country still struggling to come to terms with its past treatment of Jews, it is outrageous to strike such a blow to the future of Jews in Poland. This vote was a clear violation of religious freedom, supported by the ignorance of some and the bigotry of others.

“The debate demonstrated acceptance of the false premise that kosher slaughter, 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.”

Knesset speaker Yuli Edelstein wrote to his Polish counterpart on Sunday, stating, “The lamentable decision taken by your parliament last week to reject the law makes one wonder how a democratic country like modern-day Poland in 2013 Europe can deny basic rights of minorities such as Jews and Muslims.

“As speaker of the Knesset, the parliament of the Jewish State of Israel, I raise my voice in protest at this action by the Polish parliament,” Edelstein added. “I do not know what steps can now be taken to remedy the current legal situation, but I hope you agree that it is unthinkable that Jews should once again face serious restrictions on their freedom of religious practice, which arouses a painful sense of prejudice and discrimination.”

President of the Union of Jewish Communities of Poland, Piotr Kadlcik, said, “It looks like we’ve made a full circle and are heading back to what happened in Poland and Germany in the 1930s.”  He, along with Polish Chief Rabbi Michael Schudrich, pointed out that sport hunting is still legal in Poland.  They declared that the ban on ritual slaughter demonstrates “sinister hypocrisy which usually masks the discrimination against a part of the citizenry.”

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