February 10, 2014

Why European Rabbis are so Focused on Polish Kosher Slaughter Ban

LONDON  When the Conference of European Rabbis met in Berlin last November, there were two major issues on the table: kosher slaughter and circumcision. Many in Europe see the ban on kosher slaughter in Poland and the proposed ban on circumcision by the Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly as signs of growing anti-Semitism in Europe although the ban on religious slaughter also impacts the large Muslim population in Europe. Several European rabbis told Kosher Today that they remain vigilant on both fronts despite signs of a weakening resolve to actually implement bans. 

Polish officials are specifically skittish about their ban because it also had an adverse affect on their economy with unemployment that exceeds that of the European Union. Sources say that religious slaughter for both kosher and halal could net the Polish economy as much as $500 million a year with the potential of as much as $1 billion in less than 5 years. Israeli kosher sources say that they alone were on the verge of concluding major deals with the Polish companies and that is not to mention markets in the US. 

Poland has also been on the defense for its ban with many legislators now proposing new legislation to end the ban. Human Rights organizations in Poland are defending the right of Jews to conduct kosher slaughter: “The law not only contradicts the human rights elements of the Polish constitution, but specific legislation on the government’s relationship with the Jewish community,” the major Polish Human Rights group said. When Poland joined the European Union in 2004, it had a minuscule industry of ritually slaughtered meat. Nine years later the country had emerged as one of the EU’s leading exporters, with 273,000 tons produced annually, of which approximately 20 percent was kosher and 80 percent was halal — nearly all of it for export. 

Before the ban, ritually slaughtered meat accounted for approximately 30 percent of all meat production. Other smaller European countries are trying to capitalize on the market gap created by the Polish ban, including Croatia, whose chamber of commerce in July invited 19 Muslim ambassadors for the opening of a special department specializing in halal meat exports.

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