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Polish Agricultural Industry Enraged by Proposed Government Ban on Kosher Meat Exports

avatar by Ben Cohen

Kosher beef carcasses are seen at the Biernacki Meat Plant slaughterhouse in western Poland. Photo: Reuters / Kacper Pempel.

Poland’s agricultural industry has reacted furiously to new government proposals to restrict the slaughter of animals according to Jewish and Muslim rites, with one body representing the poultry sector warning of a complete collapse “overnight.”

On Tuesday, Jarosław Kaczyński — the veteran president of the ruling Law and Justice Party (PiS) — told a press conference in Warsaw that the government planned to introduce legislation that would effectively close down Polish exports of kosher meat. The rights of the Jewish and Muslim communities in Poland to obtain kosher or halal meat for their own consumption would not be affected however.

The proposal was part of a broader package devoted to animal rights — a cause that Poland’s right-wing nationalist government has embraced fervently. Other measures would include a ban on breeding animals for fur, empowering the police to rescue abused animals and granting greater powers to veterinary inspectors to issue fines to offenders.

But the prospect of an abrupt closure of a kosher meat export market worth $1.5 billion annually to the Polish economy sounded the alarm for several agriculture sector organizations, who issued a flurry of worried statements in the wake of Tuesday’s announcement.

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“According to our estimates, one in five poultry animals slaughtered in Poland is slaughtered according to the halal or kosher system, which also accounts for 40 percent of Polish poultry meat exports,” observed a statement jointly issued by five poultry industry associations.

“Following the introduction of the ban, the Polish poultry industry, which is the main exporter in the EU, may collapse overnight,” the statement continued.

In a separate statement, Poland’s Beef Sector Council argued that the proposed curbs on ritual slaughter would actually worsen conditions for the farm animals they were intended to benefit.

“Limiting religious slaughter will in no way improve the fate of animals, what is more, it will worsen it, because animals that cannot be slaughtered in Poland will have to travel hundreds of kilometers in order to be killed outside the country,” the Council said in a statement.

The statement added: “The consequences of such hasty decisions will be borne not only by breeders, producers and processing plants, but above all by the Polish state due to lost income. Such ideas are harmful to the development of Polish agriculture, which is the driving force of the Polish economy.”

Meanwhile, the National Council of Agricultural Chambers warned that the legislation would involve a further critical blow to an industry already reeling from the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. The same body criticized the government for focusing upon on ritual slaughter while doing little to combat the continuing outbreaks of swine fever since 2019 that have damaged the country’s pig farmers.

Concern about the government’s proposals may be tempered by the awareness that a previous attempt to restrict ritual slaughter in 2013 was stymied by Poland’s Constitutional Court. And in an interview with the Orthodox Jewish news outlet Hamodia on Wednesday, Michael Schudrich — Poland’s chief rabbi — said he remained confident “that we will quickly find a workable solution that will allow Poland to continue having the privilege of providing meat for Jews in Eretz Yisrael, England, Belgium, and many other places.”

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