New York…by Menachem Lubinsky…The Romanian government adopted a law recently that recognizes and gives specific protection to shechita, or kosher ritual slaughter of animals. But while the Conference of European Rabbis hailed the move as a “landmark” example for other countries in Europe, there was some optimism that Romania would emerge as a major producer of kosher meat as an alternative to Poland’s hold over shechita in Europe. It is believed that Poland produces more than $500 million in kosher meat despite still having anti-Shechita laws on the books and some officials making negative comments about shechita. It has been almost 5 years since discussions began in New York with senior officials of the Romanian Consulate led by Consul General Catalin Radu Dancu about opening the country to kosher slaughter. Such additional shechita would ease Israel’s shortage which now totally relies on Poland and South America for its supply. While there were many technical issues to overcome such as finding an appropriate abattoir and assuming that there was an ample supply of animals that could fit the “glatt” criteria, successive governments in Romania never moved to address the issue despite the apparent economic boon. This would certainly make sense for Israel which now has to haul the meat from long distances instead of hours away. The hope is that the new legislation would put Romania in a position to not only go against the tide in Europe to oppose shechita but actually become a major producer themselves.
The new legislation passed by the Romanian parliament comes roughly a year after the Court of the European Union upheld bans on both the Muslim and Jewish traditional methods of slaughtering animals for food in two Belgian states. Many European countries ban the slaughter of animals without stunning them first, a move that animal-rights activists say is more humane but which is not permitted under halacha, Jewish law. There has been some shechita in Romania for local consumption under the watchful eye of Romania’s Chief Rabbi Rafael Schaffer and occasionally by such communities as Manchester UK. In my visits to Romania nearly a half decade ago, there was a great deal of goodwill to explore producing glatt kosher meat, especially as they watched Poland monopolize the European market