February 2, 2021

Efforts Continue to Save Kosher Slaughter in Europe

Jerusalem…An urgent message was sent to European heads of state by Jewish Agency Chairman Isaac Herzog, pleading with them to uphold kosher slaughtering practices.

Recently the European Court of Justice upheld a ban on kosher and halal slaughtering practices passed by the Belgian parliament, which states that first an animal must be stunned before slaughter. “Today, my purpose is to alert you to a growing sense of discomfort and rejection among a number of Jewish communities, who feel that the Jewish traditions and religious observance are increasingly challenged by certain parts of European publics and legislators," Herzog wrote in the missive. He stated that this is reminiscent of pre-World War II Europe when European governments sought to ban Jewish practices, adding that European Jewish communities will soon feel that they are unwelcome in their countries where some communities have existed for "thousands" of years.

Meanwhile, there is a great deal of talk about shechita moving to such countries as Hungary and Romania. In Csengele, Hungary, Rabbi Jacob Werchow, oversees production at Quality Poultry, a 3 1/2-year-old slaughterhouse that supplies nearly 40% of Europe’s kosher poultry market and a large portion of the foie gras sold in Israel. Companies like Quality Poultry have found new export markets since the European Union’s highest court last month upheld a law in Belgium’s Flanders region that prohibited slaughtering animals without first stunning them into unconsciousness.

“This decision doesn’t only affect the Belgian Jewish community, it affects all of us,” said Rabbi Slomo Koves of the Association of Hungarian Jewish Communities, which owns the Csengele slaughterhouse. “If this is the case in Belgium and the court has given it moral approval, that might start a process on a larger scale. If you go down this logic, the next step is you also cannot not sell meat like this in these countries.” The Hungarian government helped finance the slaughterhouse in Csengele, and Prime Minister Viktor Orban joined Jewish groups in condemning the court’s decision as an assault on religious freedom. In a January letter to the U.S.-based Jewish Agency for Israel, Orban wrote that his government would “spare no effort to raise our voice against (the decision) in every possible international forum.” There is also large-scale kosher slaughter in Poland approaching $500 million a year, most of it to Israel. This despite laws banning the practice in Poland.