Jewish groups assail Polish ban on kosher slaughter

Fri Jul 12, 2013 5:56pm EDT
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By Chris Borowski

WARSAW (Reuters) - Poland's parliament on Friday rejected a government-backed bill that would have allowed slaughterhouses to produce kosher meat, angering Jewish groups who said the decision violated their religious rights.

Lawmakers who opposed the bill said they did so because kosher slaughter is cruel to livestock. Jewish groups said prejudice about their faith - a sensitive subject in a country where occupying Nazis killed millions of Jews - had played a part.

"Populism, superstition and political interests won out," said Piotr Kadlcik, who heads the Union of Jewish Communities of Poland. "It looks like we've made a full circle and are heading back to what happened in Poland and Germany in the 1930s."

Usually, slaughterhouses stun livestock before killing them, while kosher rites demand an animal is killed by slitting its throat while it is alive and allowing it to bleed to death. The halal meat consumed by observant Muslims is killed in a similar way.

The government had hoped the proposed law would allow Polish abattoirs to resume production of kosher meat, which was forced to stop last year by the constitutional court.

Some Jewish community leaders said the tone of the debate around the issue echoed the kind of anti-Semitic rhetoric seen in Europe before World War Two.

Poland was home to Europe's largest Jewish community before the outbreak of war in 1939, but the Holocaust all but wiped it out. Nazi concentration camps including Auschwitz and Treblinka were located on Polish soil.

"Jewish communities across Europe will be incredibly distressed that the Polish parliament has voted not to protect the religious freedom of its Jewish and Muslim citizens," said Chief Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt, head of the Conference of European Rabbis.   Continued...