In a controversial ruling that is bound to anger the Jewish community and farmers and exporters of meat to Islamic countries, the Polish parliament has rejected the ritual slaughter of livestock for food.
Lawmakers struck down a government bill that would have reinstated the practice -- a key tenet of the Jewish and Muslim faiths -- with a vote of 222 against, 178 in favour and nine abstentions.
AdvertisementRitual slaughter has been banned in Poland since January 1 after a Constitutional Court deemed it incompatible with animal rights law.
Supporters of the practice had pegged their hopes on the bill, whose rejection the European Jewish Congress said it "strongly condemns".
Poland's chief rabbi Michael Schudrich meanwhile said the result "was a shock to us" in a joint statement with Piotr Kadlcik, president of the Union of Jewish Communities of Poland.
"It directly infringes on the basic rights of the country's Jewish and Muslim populations, which will henceforth be forced to either buy more expensive imported meat, or endorse an enforced vegetarianism."
Poland's Jewish and Muslim communities each number around 20,000 to 30,000 people. According to Kadlcik, only a couple hundred families keep kosher.
"It is impossible not to note that Polish legislation does not ban practices such as hunting in which animals are being made to suffer for pleasure," they added.
The bill was also eagerly awaited by the agrarian Polish People's Party (PSL), which forms the governing coalition with Civic Platform (PO).
The economic stakes are high for the agricultural country, a big exporter of halal and kosher meat.
Before the ban, Poland exported around 90,000 tonnes of halal beef a year to Muslim countries, mostly Turkey, and 4,000 tonnes of kosher meat to Israel.
The value of the exports was estimated at 250-350 million euros ($330-460 million) a year.
Some 20 slaughterhouses in Poland specialise in the production of halal and kosher meat in an industry that employs 6,000 people according to the agriculture ministry.
"We have yielded our markets to the French, the Dutch and the Germans," said a farmer demonstrating in front of parliament in favour of the law.
"We won't be able to make money, support our families. It will be foreign firms who benefit -- bravo!"