July 15, 2013

PolandÕs Move to Ban Kosher Slaughter Termed ÒIll Advised and Ill TimedÓ

WARSAW — While the European Union has beat back several attempts to ban schechita (kosher slaughter) Poland’s Parliament last week banned the age-old ritual. A leading import-export businessman with ties to Poland called the decision “ill advised and ill timed.” He said that it came at a time when Poland emerged as a major exporter of kosher meat and when Jewish tourism to Poland reached an all-time high, severely damaging their economy.” 

Poland's chief rabbi Michael Schudrich said the result "was a shock to us" in a joint statement with Piotr Kadlcik, president of the Union of Jewish Communities of Poland. "It directly infringes on the basic rights of the country's Jewish and Muslim populations, which will henceforth be forced to either buy more expensive imported meat, or endorse an enforced vegetarianism. Poland's Jewish and Muslim communities each number around 20,000 to 30,000 people. According to Kadlcik, only a couple hundred families keep kosher. 

Before the ban, Poland exported around 90,000 tons of halal beef a year to Muslim countries, mostly Turkey, and 4,000 tons of kosher meat to Israel. The value of the exports was estimated at $330-460 million a year. Some 20 slaughterhouses in Poland specialize in the production of halal and kosher meat in an industry that employs 6,000 people according to the agriculture ministry. 

Some American kosher food purveyors were also hoping to develop Poland as a source for kosher meat. One travel source put the number of Jews who visit heritage sites in Poland at well over 20,000. Prior to the Second World War, Poland’s Jewish population exceeded three million, the largest in Eastern Europe. Tragically, most perished in the Holocaust.

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons