Polish parliament upholds ban on ritual slaughter - but it's nothing to do with Judaism

What is being perceived as the curtailment of religious freedoms may be better characterised as a victory for animal welfare

Share

Poland’s chief Rabbi has linked the Polish parliament's
decision to uphold a ban on ritual slaughter to Nazi propaganda, but there has
been no anti-semitic rhetoric associated with this long-running debate.

In a statement responding to a vote on Friday that blocked a government-sponsored attempt to overturn the ban on ritual slaughter, Rabbi Michael Schudrich said: "The completely untrue idea that such slaughter is cruel, or even intentionally cruel, has triumphed. This idea gained popularity in Europe in the 1930s, when Norway and Sweden banned ritual slaughter under the influence of Nazi propaganda."

The ban, which came into force in January, was the result of pressure from animal welfare groups, not neo-Nazis. Their concern was a response to a massive increase in ritual slaughter in Poland to provide meat for export to Muslim countries and Israel, not the nation’s very small Jewish community.

What is being perceived internationally as the curtailment of religious freedoms may be better characterised as a progressive victory for animal welfare.

The controversy over ritual slaughter in Poland has been bubbling away since 1997, when parliament passed an act regulating the treatment of animals that included the requirement that livestock should be stunned before slaughter – a step forbidden under both Jewish kosher and Muslim halal rules.

Jewish groups in Poland objected and, in 2004, the government amended the law to allow slaughter without stunning for religious reasons. Very little Polish livestock was subject to ritual slaughter at that time.

This all began to change in 2010, when Turkey opened its doors to beef imports from the EU after a 14-year ban. With its strong agricultural sector, Poland was ideally placed to meet Turkish demand, and the 2004 ruling meant that Polish farmers could legally provide halal beef.

By 2011, up to 30 per cent of all Polish beef exports came from ritually slaughtered cattle – more than 150,000 animals – and brought in about one billion euros. What had been a tiny, specialist sector had grown into big business, to the horror of Polish animal-rights activists.

In 2011, animal-welfare groups persuaded Poland's attorney general to submit the 2004 ruling to the country's Constitutional Court on the grounds that it improperly overrode the 1997 animal welfare laws. The court agreed, and the ritual slaughter exception was struck down, effective December 31, 2012.

Seeing a billion-euro market evaporating before their eyes, it was Poland's meat producers who besieged parliament waving angry placards, not Poland's Jews.

The reaction from Poland's Jewish community has been far more diverse than Rabbi Michael Schudrich's statement might suggest. At least one prominent Jewish voice has expressed sympathy with the ban. Severyn Ashkenazy, the founder of the Progressive Jewish Community of Poland, said:

"We Jews must behave honourably and lead in kindness toward animals… Now we live in the greatest scientific century, should we not rather trust a veterinary doctor than a mashgiach [supervisor of kosher observance]?”

Jonathan Ornstein, director of the Krakow Jewish Community Centre is a staunch vegetarian and animal rights supporter, but opposes the ban on the grounds that it is unfair to outlaw one form of slaughter while allowing slaughter in general and hunting for sport to continue. He said:

"I find it hard to believe that any reasonably intelligent, thinking person can hold the opinion that ritual slaughter, as practiced by Jews, is worthy of being singled out as particularly cruel to animals… I don't accept the idea that a country where you can go out and hunt for pleasure… should outlaw a form of killing that was devised thousands of years go to be humane."

Poland's lawmakers have decided on a question that was primarily to do with public reaction to an animal welfare issue, but that had an unavoidable impact on the lives of the nation's Jews. It was a lose-lose scenario – allow meat producers to continue to take advantage of a ruling that had been solely intended to allow limited ritual slaughter for the benefit of the indigenous Jewish community, or close that door and be perceived as barbarously suppressing religious freedoms. The international reaction to their decision perhaps reveals an uncomfortable truth about our outdated view of Poland.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant- NY- Investment Bank

Not specified: Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant Top tier investment bank i...

Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executive- City of London, Old Street

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executiv...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An international organisa...

Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwickshire

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwicksh...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

I'm just as merry without a drink, thank you

Fiona Sturges
“I just wanted some chicken wings,” Tan Shen told the assembled media. “But once I got in there ... I decided I needed time to think.”  

Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Ellen E Jones
War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?
Finally, a diet that works: Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced

Finally, a diet that works

Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced
Say it with... lyrics: The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches

Say it with... lyrics

The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches
Professor Danielle George: On a mission to bring back the art of 'thinkering'

The joys of 'thinkering'

Professor Danielle George on why we have to nurture tomorrow's scientists today
Monique Roffey: The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections

Monique Roffey interview

The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections
Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Their outrageousness and originality makes the world a bit more interesting, says Ellen E Jones
DJ Taylor: Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

It has been hard to form generally accepted cultural standards since the middle of the 19th century – and the disintegration is only going to accelerate, says DJ Taylor
Olivia Jacobs & Ben Caplan: 'Ben thought the play was called 'Christian Love'. It was 'Christie in Love' - about a necrophiliac serial killer'

How we met

Olivia Jacobs and Ben Caplan
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's breakfasts will revitalise you in time for the New Year

Bill Granger's healthy breakfasts

Our chef's healthy recipes are perfect if you've overindulged during the festive season
Transfer guide: From Arsenal to West Ham - what does your club need in the January transfer window?

Who does your club need in the transfer window?

Most Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
The Last Word: From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015

Michael Calvin's Last Word

From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015