Religious slaughter has been forbidden in Poland since November, when a court ruled that it was unconstitutional to allow any exemptions from the country’s animal welfare rules, which state that all animals must be stunned prior to slaughter.
The bill would have brought the country’s laws into line with EU legislation and would have legalised religious slaughter, as long as animals did not experience unnecessary suffering, but it was rejected with 222 votes against, 178 for and nine abstentions.
The rejection of the bill has been condemned by religious leaders, who argue that Jewish and Muslim populations are being forced to buy expensive imported meat or resort to vegetarianism.
National director of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) Abraham H Foxman, said the vote was “a clear violation of religious freedom” and accused MPs of bigotry.
“The majority of Polish MPs gave the Polish Jewish community three choices: don’t practise your religion, don’t eat meat, or don’t live among us,” he said.
The vote was also criticised by the country’s meat industry. Poland used to export large quantities of kosher and halal meat to Israel and the Middle East, and it is estimated that the ban has cost over $300m and resulted in the loss of thousands of jobs in the sector.
However, animal welfare group Eurogroup for Animals said yesterday (15 July) that the rejection of the bill was “great news”.
“This vote makes Poland one of the few EU member states where the practice is banned with no exception and ends a six-month struggle with the Ministry of Agriculture and the Government to further proceed with the bill,” said a spokesperson.