A newly introduced “animal rights” bill introduced by Poland’s ruling party includes a clause that would ban the export of kosher and halal meat. While the bill does not address the legality of shechita for Poland’s small Jewish community, it threatens to shut down an export industry that has become one of the major sources of kosher beef for Eretz Yisrael and much of Western Europe.
The measure is sponsored by Jaroslav Kaczyński, head of the ruling Law and Justice party and one of Poland’s most powerful political figures-known for his strong support of strong measures to protect animals.
Nevertheless, Poland’s Chief Rabbi, Michael Schudrich, was cautiously optimistic that a workable solution could be found to eliminate the clause and preserve the nation’s robust kosher export industry.
“I am pretty confident that we will quickly find a workable solution that will allow Poland to continue having the privilege of providing meat for Jews in Eretz Yisrael, England, Belgium, and many other places,” he told Hamodia.
Rabbi Schudrich said that he was working closely with Poland’s leading Islamic cleric, Mufti Tomasz Miśkiewicz, and that they were already engaged in discussions with key political figures to lobby against the clause.
This is not the first threat to shechitah in Poland in recent memory. In 2004, a law was passed requiring all animals be stunned before slaughter, but allowing an exception for religious groups, whose customs forbade the practice. In 2013, the religious exception was struck from the books amid legal and political wrangling. However the next year, Poland’s high court put the exemption back in place saying that the de facto ban was a violation of the nation’s constitutional guarantee of religious practice.
In 2018, a similar piece of legislation that would have banned exports was advanced, but never voted on.
Both that bill and the present one respect the court ruling by allowing kosher and halal meat to be produced for Poland’s domestic Jewish and Muslim communities.
The bill was crafted as a broad act to promote animal welfare and also includes a ban on breeding animals for fur production, and charging police with rescuing abused pets.
The measure comes at a time of rising threats to religious practice in Europe. A bill that would ban bris milah and other non-medical circumcisions in Denmark has re-gained steam in its parliament and a challenge to Belgium’s law forbidding shechitah is pending before the European Court of Justice.