Kosher meat (illustrative)
Kosher meat (illustrative) Israel news photo

Poland's parliament on Friday rejected the ritual slaughter of livestock for food, angering the Jewish community as well as farmers and exporters of meat towards Israel and Muslim countries.

AFP reported that lawmakers struck down a government bill that would have reinstated the practice with a vote of 222 against, 178 in favor and nine abstentions.

Ritual 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," the statement said, according to AFP.

The Polish parliament, the Sejm, was set to amend the law on the protection of animals to allow kosher slaughter without stunning and had even drafted regulations aimed at reducing animals’ suffering and permitting kosher and halal slaughter.

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 economic stakes are high for the agricultural country, a big exporter of halal and kosher meat, noted AFP.

Before the ban, Poland exported around 90,000 tons of halal beef a year to Muslim countries, mostly Turkey, and 4,000 tons of kosher meat to Israel.

The value of the exports was estimated at $330-460 million a year.

Some 20 slaughterhouses in Poland specialize 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 favor of the law.

"We won't be able to make money, support our families. It will be foreign firms who benefit -- bravo!"

(Arutz Sheva’s North American Desk is keeping you updated until the start of Shabbat in New York. The time posted automatically on all Arutz Sheva articles, however, is Israeli time.)