Thursday, 22 Oct 2020 - 4 of Heshvan, 5781

Parliamentarians and Jewish community leaders from across Europe unite to call on Poland to scrap animal welfare bill seeking to ban export of kosher meat

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The bill  has already passed through the Sjem, the lower house of the bi-cameral Polish parliament and a vote on it is expected in the Senate next Tuesday.

In its Article 10, the EU’s charter of fundamental rights states: “Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. This right includes freedom to change religion, belief and freedom, either alone or in community with others, and in public or private, to manifest religion or belief, in worship, teaching, practice and observance”.

Dozens of parliamentarians from across Europe, including Senators, MPs, MEPs and the UK House of Lords, and Jewish community leaders from variou European countries have joined forces in an open letter calling on the Polish authorities to scrap part of an animal welfare bill that seeks a ban on the export of kosher meat from Poland.

The bill  has already passed through the Sjem, the lower house of the bi-cameral Polish parliament and a vote on it is expected in the Senate next Tuesday.

While signatories of the letter stated that animal welfare ”is an extremely important issue,” they also emphazized that a move to ban the export of kosher meat from Poland ”would severely impact Jewish communities across the continent who, either by size or limited resources, rely heavily on Poland as a supplier of kosher meat.”

Poland is one of the biggest European exporters of kosher meat.

The parliamentarians and Jewish leader signatories also emphasized that the bill sets a dangerous precedent as it puts animal welfare rights clearly ahead of the fundamental European right of freedom of religion.

In a letter to Polish President Andrzej Duda, Rabbi EJA Chairman Menachem Margolin, noted that Jewish people in Europe and Israel for a long time have enjoyed a fruitful and cooperative relationship with Poland as a principal supplier of kosher meat to our communities.”

In its Article 10, the EU’s charter of fundamental rights states: “Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. This right includes freedom to change religion, belief and freedom, either alone or in community with others, and in public or private, to manifest religion or belief, in worship, teaching, practice and observance”.

The signatories also raised the fact that there is no conclusive scientific evidence to support claims that shechita, the kosher method of slaughter, is any more cruel than the majority of slaughter taking place day-in, day out in Europe.

In their letter, the signatories wrote to the Polish government, “By prohibiting an export of products that represents a central tenet of Jewish faith and practice for many, you are sending a strong message that laws that effectively hinder Jewish life in Europe are acceptable.’’

“It is for these reasons – and on behalf of the many thousands of Jews that we as Community Leaders and Parliamentarians represent – that we urge the Polish government, its Parliament and its Senators to stop this aspect of the bill.”

Rabbi Menachem Margolin, Chairman of the European Jewish Association who initiated the letter, said in a statement: “What appears to be a national polish political issue is nothing of the sort. The ramifications of this bill are potentially devastating and profound to Jews everywhere in Europe, and also to the many who value the liberty to practice freedom of religion.’’

“The bill, if passed, will be seen as a declaration that it is open season to anyone who objects to aspects of Jewish law, faith and practice. It must be stopped,’’ he said.

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