WARSAW, Poland (JTA) — More than 130,000 Polish voters signed a petition calling for a public referendum on an amendment that would legalize Jewish ritual slaughter, or shechitah, in Poland.
The petition, circulated by the National Council of Agricultural Chambers, or KRIR, was submitted last week to the Chancellery of Polish Parliament, or Sejm.
The parliament has two weeks to verify the signatures, and the speaker of the parliament has three months to send the draft law for its first reading.
In July, the Polish Parliament rejected a draft law that would have legalized shechitah in Poland. In January 2013, a constitutional court banned religious slaughter following a petition by animals’ rights groups claiming the practice caused pain to the animals.
Prior to the ban, the export of kosher and halal meat to Israel and Muslim-majority countries such as Egypt and Iran had been a $650 million business in Poland.
“The ban of ritual slaughter led to a significant reduction in the import of Polish beef and poultry by the Arab countries and Turkey. These are the most attractive markets, and these losses are up to 2 billion Euro,” Wiktor Szmulewicz, president of KRIR, told reporters after his organization’s petition was submitted.
The amendment filed by KRIR is identical to the one rejected by the Parliament in July. It allows slaughter without prior stunning and prohibits the use of rotating cages.
Last August 2013, the Union of Jewish Communities in Poland submitted an appeal to the Polish Constitutional Tribunal to verify the compatibility of the Law on the Protection of Animals with the country’s Constitution and the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedom. The application will be considered by the full tribunal, though a date for a hearing has not yet been set.