(Adds comment from American Jewish Committee)
By Chris Borowski
WARSAW, July 12 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
"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
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
Activists have challenged religious slaughter customs in
France and the Netherlands, mostly concentrating on halal
slaughter by Muslims.
Industry groups in Poland have said banning halal and kosher
meat production would stop firms from exporting to markets in
Israel and the Middle East.
Opponents of the practice said that was no justification.
"Even if we were talking about significant losses - and we're
not - there is no permission for animal cruelty in the name of
money," said Andrzej Rozenek, a leader of the leftist Palikot
The bill's defeat is a setback for Prime Minister Donald
Tusk after 38 deputies from his own Civic Platform (PO) joined
the opposition to defeat it.
"We urge Poland's legislative and judicial authorities to
move expeditiously to recognize by law the Jewish community's
right to prepare kosher meat according to Jewish tradition,"
David Harris, head of the American Jewish Committee, said in a
"It would be beyond shocking if a democratic Poland
prevented kosher slaughter, which is so integral to Jewish life
in the country," Harris added.
Earlier this month, Tusk's party, which has trailed the main
rightist opposition party in recent polls, lost an election for
mayor of one of its former strongholds. One of PO's leaders
faces a recall vote as mayor of Warsaw.
(Reporting by Chris Borowski, Marcin Goettig and Hubert Humka;
editing by Andrew Roche)