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Wednesday, April 23, 2014

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Polish PM reportedly trying resolve ritual slaughter ban

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Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk

WARSAW — Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk reportedly has tasked a government minister with finding a way to keep ritual slaughter legal in Poland despite a ban that was upheld by parliament.

Poland’s ambassador to the European Union, Marek Prawda, told the European Jewish Association on July 18 that Tusk instructed Michal Boni, the minister responsible for religious affairs, to try to resolve problems surrounding the ban.

Rabbi Menachem Margolin, director of the Brussels-based Jewish lobby group, met with Prawda to discuss ways to legalize kosher slaughter following the July 12 defeat in parliament of a bill that was designed by the Polish government to reverse the ban.

The ban, which went into effect in January, was issued by a constitutional court following a petition by animal welfare activists who argued that traditional Jewish ritual slaughter, or shechitah, and the Muslim ritual of Dhabiha were cruel because they preclude stunning prior to cutting the animals’ throats.

Also July 18, five leaders from the World Union for Progressive Judaism, which represents Reform and Conservative communities, said in a statement that “banning Shechitah places many Jews at great disadvantage and must be rejected,” and that ”shechitah performed with skill and care as laid down in all our ancient texts can be swift and painless.”

European Jewish Congress officials met July 18 for an emergency meeting on the ban with Polish Jewish leaders. Also attending the meeting were top figures within the Conference of European Rabbis and Poland’s chief rabbi, Michael Schudrich, who participated via video link.

“The Jews of Europe will not stand idle while one of our communities is prevented from practicing the free expression of their religion,” said Serge Cwajgenbaum, secretary general of the European Jewish Congress.

Ruben Vis, the organization’s Dutch vice president, added: “It is not for us to judge the intent of Polish legislators in rejecting this bill, but we are entitled to ask why many cruel practices which involve the slaughter of animals and do not affect Jews and Muslims are ignored.”

Meanwhile, Polish Jews are still practising shchitah, despite the ban.

“I have no hesitation to do shechitah. When it becomes necessary we certainly will do shechitah [again] because I believe it’s legal,” Rabbi Schudrich told the Jerusalem Post.

Poland has about 20,000 Muslims and 40,000 Jews. It once had a for-export industry of kosher and halal meat worth about $500 million annually, according to Business Week.

With files from JNS.org

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