Bill to allow shechitah defeated in Poland

(JTA) — A government draft law to allow religious slaughter in Poland was defeated in parliament.

“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,” Pinchas Goldschmidt, President of the Conference of European Rabbis, said in statement about the vote Friday.

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The draft law would have allowed ritual slaughter provided it is done only in slaughterhouses. It also excluded certain forms of immobilizing the animal.

The bill was defeated by 222 to 178.

Until January, Poland made about 500 million euros per year exporting kosher and halal meat to Israel and Muslim countries like Egypt and Iran. But the business practically ground to a halt that month, after a constitutional court ruled the state had no right to allow religious slaughter. The ruling was made on a petition filed by animals’ rights groups.

Poland’s for-export industry of kosher and halal meat provides about 6,000 jobs at a time when around 13 percent of adult Poles are without a job, according to Business Week.

On Wednesday, dozens of Polish farmers marched in Warsaw in a rally in support of the now-defeated draft law.

“The result of today’s vote in the Sejm is extremely disappointing,” a spokesperson for Shechitah UK, a non-profit working to repeal efforts to ban the practice, told JTA. “It represents the lowest point in the campaign to protect Shechita in Europe.

“Shechita UK will work together with [Polish] Chief Rabbi [Michael] Schudrich in Poland and the Conference of European Rabbis to offer whatever assistance we can as the campaign to deal with this latest setback is adapted,” the spokesperson said.

The Conference of European Rabbis also said it was “alarmed by the level of disinformation that has characterized the parliamentary debates” on the issue.

“We will be seeking an urgent meeting with the Polish Prime Minister,” the conference said in a statement. “We will also be exploring what our legal options at E.U. level might be at this stage. This is very sad day for the Polish Jewish community and indeed for all of European Jewry.”