Poland Could Ban Kosher Slaughter, Angering Israel

The Polish parliament is expected to vote on a new bill on animal welfare that could restrict Kosher slaughters and impact exports of kosher meat in Europe and Israel, according to reports.

Kosher translates from Hebrew as "appropriate." Kosher foods are those that meet the requirements of Kashrut, Jewish religious dietary laws. For meat to be kosher, the animal has to be slaughtered in a particular way and cannot be stunned beforehand.

The restrictions, part of a 48-page bill the parliament is scheduled to vote on this week, include a ban on slaughtering animals that are in an "unnatural state."

This would contravene Kashrut and result in a reduction of kosher meat available for exports to Israel, where meat prices are expected to rise as a result.

"Kashrut laws forbid to apply any pressure on the knife to protect the animal from unnecessary pain. Preventing this pressure is impossible when the animal is standing with its head leaning heavily on the knife," European Jewish Association (EJA) Chairman Rabbi Menachem Margolin, was quoted by Israel's Ynews website site as saying.

He called on the Israeli and Polish governments to reach an agreement on the issue.

Slaughterhouse
For meat to be kosher, the animal has to be slaughtered in a particular way and cannot be stunned beforehand. CHARLY TRIBALLEAU/AFP/Getty Images

"These restrictions on kosher slaughter are in complete contradiction to the principle of freedom of religion of the European Union," he said.

"The situation in Poland is unacceptable. I call on the government in Poland to avoid enacting this shameful law and to take into account that the Jewish people's faith in the Polish leadership is deteriorating. I can't imagine what the next stage will be after the Holocaust law and imposing restrictions on kosher slaughter in the country."

Poland banned kosher slaughter in 2013, following activists' campaigning calling for an end to the practice, deemed as inhumane.

However, one year later, the Consitutional Court lifted the ban—criticized by Jewish groups—on religious freedom grounds.

The move comes as tensions between the two countries were exacerbated after the Polish government banned the use of expressions that implied Poland was responsible for atrocities committed during the Holocaust.

A new law, passed in February, set punishment for up to three years for those who refer to concentration camps on Polish soil as "Polish death camps" or imply Poland's involvement.

The move angered Israel. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said: "We have no tolerance for the distortion of the truth and rewriting history or denying the Holocaust."