Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Poland Court Bans Kosher, Halal Meat. Well done Poland !

WARSAW—Polish lawmakers Friday rejected government-drafted legislation that sought to allow the ritual slaughter of livestock, despite protests from religious groups and concerns about damage to the country's meat industry.

In ritual slaughter, used in the production of kosher and halal meat, animals are bled to death with no prior stunning. Poland's animal protection laws dictate that slaughterhouses stun animals before killing them.

Associated Press

Farmers this week urged an end to a ban on ritual livestock slaughter.

An exception to the rule was in place until January, when it was invalidated as a result of a ruling by the country's constitutional court.

The ensuing ban triggered a nationwide discussion pitting animal-rights advocates, who see the method as cruel, against the government, which said jobs and profit in the meat industry were at stake. It drafted legislation legalizing the practice again.

Hundreds of people on both sides of the dispute protested in front of Parliament and government buildings this week. Farmers brought a life-size plastic cow to the headquarters of the opposition conservative Law and Justice party, whose leader, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, said he would vote against the government's proposal. Animal rights groups demanded the ban be upheld.

On Friday, a group of lawmakers from the ruling camp voted with the opposition to kill the bill, in a blow to Prime Minister Donald Tusk.

Michael Schudrich, Poland's chief rabbi, sharply criticized the vote as an infringement on "the basic rights of the country's Jewish and Muslim populations, which will henceforth be forced to either buy more expensive imported meat, or endorse an enforced vegetarianism."

He also noted that hunting for sport, in which animals also suffer, remains legal. "The right to this pleasure is now, in the Polish legal system, ranked higher than the basic religious freedoms of two non-Christian confessions," he said.

Piotr Kadlcik, head of the Union of Jewish Communities of Poland, said the lawmakers were driven by populism and superstitions, while the Conference of European Rabbis said it was a sad day for Polish and European Jews.

Poland had the largest Jewish community in Europe before the invasion by Germany in 1939, which sparked World War II and led to the construction of Nazi death camps on German-occupied territory. Only about 8,000 people declared they were Jewish in the national census in 2011.

Despite the criticism, the government has no plans to try again to overturn the ban, even though it will cost the meat industry several hundred million dollars in lost revenue a year, Prime Minister Tusk said.

"After the vote my mind was sad but my heart rejoiced," he said, acknowledging concerns about the inhumane treatment of animals.

Associations of farmers have said leaving the ritual slaughter ban in place will lead to the loss of some 6,000 jobs in the meat industry.

Exports to Muslim countries and to Israel, major destinations for Polish halal and kosher meat, dropped by 70% this year as a result of the ban, Agriculture Minister Stanislaw Kalemba said Friday in Parliament.

The matter will likely be revisited by the courts. A local court in northeastern Poland has asked the Constitutional Tribunal to rule on whether the ban violates freedom of religion.


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