Poland cut its own throat
Farmers, producers and now lawmakers say they regret kibosh being put on kosher and halal meat in deference to animal rights
WARSAW, Poland (AP) — For some, it was a barbaric way to treat animals. For others, it was great business.
Until January, slaughterhouses across Poland — a deeply Catholic nation — were the unlikely venues for the Islamic and Jewish slaughter of animals, which in both religions involves a swift cut to the throat of a conscious animal and death by bleeding.
Millions of euros were being made exporting the halal and kosher meat to countries like Egypt, Iran and Israel, as well as to Muslim and Jewish markets inside Europe.
In a victory for a growing animal rights movement, activists succeeded in getting a ban on such religious slaughter. But with economic decline deepening and exports seen as a possible salvation, the government faces pressure to get the practice reinstated legally — and is scrambling to do so.
Though Poland’s own cuisine is heavy in pork, a meat banned by Jewish and Islamic laws, the country has cut out this niche business for itself in one example of the economic savvy Poland has shown since joining the European Union in 2004. Kosher and halal meat exports have grown between 20 and 30 percent per year in recent years as the largely agricultural country has capitalized on its low labor costs and a reputation for healthy farm animals.
“God gave us good food, good soil good and good farm animals, and he gave the Muslim countries what they have under the surface — black gold,” said Mufti Tomasz Miskiewicz, the top Muslim leader in Poland. “There are nations with big populations — like Egypt, the Arab countries, Indonesia — that need this food and don’t have enough cattle to produce enough meat themselves.”
The business has been encouraged by Poland’s Jewish and Muslim communities, minorities that are very small but with a presence going back many centuries. Polish Jews once made up the world’s largest Jewish population; though nearly wiped out in the Holocaust, the community is growing. Tatars, a Muslim people, also settled here centuries ago, and have been joined recently by Arab diplomats, businessmen and students.
The kosher and halal business had boomed until January, when the ban took effect following a ruling by the Constitutional Tribunal. Though the actual slaughter was carried out by specially trained Muslim and Jewish officials, the industry also created thousands of supporting jobs for others.
Animal rights activists argue that killing animals without stunning them first causes unnecessary suffering to the animals. Jewish and Muslim leaders strongly disagree, and insist that their method is actually more humane, in part became it causes the animals to lose consciousness very fast. They argue that standard industrial slaughter involves pre-stunning that is sometimes not effective, leading to even greater suffering.