Rabbi Menachem Margolin

The Polish parliament, after the recent passing of a controversial law banning individuals from accusing Poland of Holocaust atrocities, is now expected to vote on a new “animal welfare” bill. The bill includes a ban on kosher slaughter, under which violators could face a prison sentence of up to four years. The bill has been sponsored by the current ruling party of Poland, Law and Justice (PiS). PiS is noted for its right-wing and nationalist politics. The Brandeis Center has previously drawn attention to the potential limitation of human rights in Poland.  PiS was recently criticized, this past November, when party members lauded far-right protests calling for a “white Europe.” The Polish Foreign Ministry released a statement which referred to the march as a “great celebration of Poles, differing in their views, but united around the common values of freedom and loyalty to an independent homeland.”

The new bill, which would include a ban on exporting kosher meat from Poland, is expected to affect Jewish communities throughout Europe, as well as exports to Israel. The bill would also ban slaughter when animals are in an “unnatural state” which, according to European Jewish Association chairman Rabbi Menachem Margolin, would make it “impossible” to slaughter animals in accordance with Kashrut dietary laws. The Polish parliament had previously banned kosher slaughter in 2013, but the law was struck down by the Polish constitutional court. Since 2013, however, the shift in the political atmosphere of Poland has rendered the possibility of the law passing, and failing to be struck down, far more likely.

This ban on kosher slaughter would also affect the Polish Muslim community, as kosher slaughter and Halal slaughter operate on largely the same principles. This law, one which disproportionately targets religious minorities on the basis of “humane” practices, is further fueled by similar legislation in other European nations. Belgium is set to have a ban on kosher slaughter go into effect in 2019. The Belgian law is, however, currently being fought by several Jewish groups within Belgium and supported by the Lawfare Project. The same grounds used to fight against the Belgian law criminalizing kosher slaughter are now being employed in Poland – namely, that the restriction violates constitutional guarantees of religious freedom.

The rise of nationalist rhetoric in Poland, along with the new legislation tied to it, is just one of many signs that the fight against this resurgent form of bigotry must continue.

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