Jewish groups said on Wednesday a Polish court ruling on methods used to slaughter livestock could halt the production of kosher meat, threatening their religious freedom in a country where Nazi Germany massacred millions of Jews in World War Two.
Poland’s Constitutional court this week reinforced a law that states livestock has to be stunned before slaughter, ruling out the practice stipulated by the Jewish faith of slaughtering the animal by slitting its throat while it is still conscious.
The court took up the case after lobbying from animal rights groups who said the kosher method was cruel. But the case has inflamed religious sensitivities in Poland against the backdrop of the Holocaust when Poland was under German occupation.
“While it may not be their intention, those who seek to proscribe Jewish traditions in general and shechitah (kosher slaughter) in particular are reminding the Jewish community of far darker times,” Aryeh Goldberg of the Rabbinical Centre of Europe said in a statement.
“We call on the Polish government to find a legal caveat which will ensure the continuation of shechitah, which is such an important part of Jewish life … all over the world and particularly in Poland,” Goldberg said.
The European Jewish Association called the ruling “devastating to Jewish welfare and freedom of religion”, and said it was sending a letter of protest to the Polish president.
Animal rights activists have challenged religious slaughter customs in France and the Netherlands, mostly in terms of halal slaughter by Muslims, which like kosher slaughter requires animals to be conscious when killed.
The Polish dispute has echoes of a case in neighbouring Germany this year. There, a court ruling outlawing circumcision of young boys on medical grounds raised an outcry from Jews and Muslims, who said it curtailed their religious freedom. The German ruling is to be overturned by new legislation.