News that ritual slaughter could be banned in Poland caught Jakub Lopinski at a critical moment in his career.
Lopinski, a non-Jewish entrepreneur from Krakow, was preparing to open a new kosher slaughterhouse in an attempt to carve out a niche for himself in Poland’s large export industry for halal and kosher meat.
But the future of that industry, estimated to be worth $250 million annually, was plunged into uncertainty last week when Poland’s highest court declared unconstitutional a 2004 government provision permitting the slaughter of conscious animals only for religious reasons.
The ruling will take effect in January, the same time as a new European law, Regulation 1099, which requires that animals do not experience “unnecessary suffering.” Regulation 1099 provides exceptions for religious slaughter, though some level of discretion is reserved for individual states. Jewish leaders worry it won’t be enough to keep kosher slaughter legal. But for Lopinski, his business depends on it.
“All of this will be resolved through European Regulation 1099 long before we open our slaughterhouse,” Lopinski said.
Poland is far from the first European country to see efforts to curb kosher slaughter on the grounds that it is cruel to animals. But unlike similar measures in Holland and Slovenia, among others, Poland, despite its tiny Jewish population, has a significant kosher industry, one on which several other countries depend for affordable meat.
The Polish Ministry of Agriculture could not provide exact figures on the number of kosher slaughterhouses in Poland, but the French news agency AFP put the total number of kosher and halal abattoirs at 17. Salah Messikh, the director of Halal Polska, a large slaughter agency in Poznan, puts the total at 50. Messikh says Poland exports a few hundred thousand tons of halal meat annually.
Shechitah, as the Jewish regulations concerning animal slaughter are known, accounts for about 20 percent of Poland’s ritual slaughter market, according to Piotr Kadlcik, president of the Union of Jewish Communities in Poland. Only a small amount is consumed locally by Poland’s 6,000 Jews. Most is exported to Germany, Turkey, France, Italy and Israel.