A ban on shechita in Poland could have far-reaching consequences for consumers in Britain, kosher meat producers have warned.
Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk’s attempts to introduce a law to protect religious slaughter were rejected in the country’s parliament last Friday.
The chairman of Britain’s Kosher Meat Traders Association warned that the issue was “the biggest worry we have ever had”.
Mr Tusk had submitted a draft of new regulations designed to allow kosher and halal meat production while reducing the suffering of animals.
Poland’s Chief Rabbi, Michael Schudrich, threatened to resign following the parliamentary vote. He said he would not continue to serve if the country limited the rights of Jews.
Kosher meat producers in Poland are considering appealing parliament’s decision at the Constitutional Court, a move supported by Agriculture Minister Stanislaw Kalemba.
The European Jewish Congress, the Polish Jewish community and the Conference of European Rabbis are lobbying the Polish government and selected MPs of EU member states in an effort to reverse the decision. They held a summit in Brussels on Wednesday to discuss the problem.
An outright ban on shechita in the country — mooted since last November — would have a knock-on effect in Britain. Many kosher producers in this country source meat from Poland.
Kosher Meat Traders Association chairman Jacky Lipowicz said: “I think we are going to have problems. Shechita UK has its work cut out. If there was a ban then there would be a shortfall in terms of what is needed here. It would not necessarily push the price up but it has been very worrying.”
Kosher Deli, one of Britain’s biggest kosher meat traders, is believed to source almost all of its meat from Poland. But managing director Albert Bendahan attempted to ease fears of a possible meat shortage.
He said: “There are plenty of places to get meat. I buy from France as well as from Poland. Nothing is certain yet. The consumers should not worry — we are always here to serve them.”
Board of Deputies vice-president Jonathan Arkush said: “The ignorance that prevailed in the parliamentary debate is lamentable. Jewish communities worldwide take pride that shechita conforms to the highest standards of animal welfare.”
He said the Board was seeking an urgent meeting with Poland’s ambassador to Britain in order to “express our concerns in person”.
Rabbi Schudrich and Piotr Kadlcik, president of Poland’s Union of Jewish Religious Communities, said that a ban would “infringe the basic rights of the country’s Jews and Muslims”.
Poland has been one of the largest exporters of kosher meat to Israel, France, Turkey and Egypt, with revenues estimated at half a billion euros a year.
Tomasz Kubik, owner of the Biernacki meat plant, one of Poland’s biggest kosher and halal producers, said: “We are planning to appeal with the Constitutional Court and, if that doesn’t help, we will have to look for new markets for our non-kosher meat.”