(JTA) — The Polish Parliament rejected a draft law that would have legalized Jewish ritual slaughter, or shechitah, in Poland.
The bill, defeated 222-178 on Friday, would have allowed shechitah provided it is done in a slaughterhouse. It also excluded certain forms of immobilizing the animal.
Until this year, Poland allowed shechitah, making about $650 million annually by exporting kosher and halal meat to Israel and Muslim-majority countries like Egypt and Iran. But the business practically ground to a halt in January after a constitutional court ruled that the country has no right to allow religious slaughter. The ruling was made after a petition filed by animals’ rights groups.
Dozens of Polish farmers marched in Warsaw on Wednesday in a rally in support of allowing shechitah.
On Friday, Jewish groups bemoaned the failure to pass a law allowing ritual slaughter.
“Jewish communities across Europe will be incredibly distressed that the Polish Parliament has voted not to protect the religious freedom of its Jewish and Muslim citizens,” Pinchas Goldschmidt, president of the Conference of European Rabbis, said in statement.
“The result of today’s vote in the Sejm is extremely disappointing,” a spokesperson for Shechitah UK, a non-profit working to repeal efforts to ban the practice, told JTA. “It represents the lowest point in the campaign to protect shechitah in Europe.”
The group said that it will work with Polish Chief Rabbi Michael Schudrich and the Conference of European Rabbis to offer assistance in the campaign to overcome this setback.
The Conference of European Rabbis also said it was “alarmed by the level of disinformation that has characterized the parliamentary debates” on the issue.
“We will be seeking an urgent meeting with the Polish prime minister,” the conference said. “We will also be exploring what our legal options at E.U. level might be at this stage. This is very sad day for the Polish Jewish community and indeed for all of European Jewry.”
In a joint statement, Schudrich and Piotr Kadlcik, president of the Union of Jewish Religious Communities in Poland, said the result of the vote was “a shock.” The de-facto ban infringes on freedom of religion, they said.
Noting that hunting for sport is legal in Poland, they said the vote against shechitah reflects “sinister hypocrisy which usually masks the discrimination against a part of the citizenry.”