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Polish Government Denies Kosher Slaughtering

Polish Government Denies Kosher Slaughtering


International debate ensues as issues of animal rights conflict with religious freedom

In Poland, what started out as an animal rights issue has turned into a question of religious freedom.

The Huffington Post reports that lawmakers in the capital city of Warsaw shot down a bill that proposed to reinstitute the slaughtering of livestock according to the practice of Jewish Ritual Law.

Polish agricultural customs say that animals are usually stunned before they are slaughtered in an effort to make the process more humane. However, the kosher slaughtering process, banned by constitutional ruling last year, bypasses any anesthetization of the animal and calls for the animal’s throat to be slit, causing it to bleed to death.

The Israel Foreign Ministry has made it public knowledge that they do not support the Polish government’s vote. This new legislative action could harm the diplomatic relationship between Poland and Israel, a relationship that Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk has been working to cultivate.

Jewish community groups are also concerned that this decision will set back the process of restoring Jewish life in Poland. The Jewish people have a rich history in Poland, but their community was almost completely annihilated after the Second World War.


Legal aspects of ritual slaughter

The legal aspects of ritual slaughter include the regulation of slaughterhouses, butchers, and religious personnel involved with traditional shechita (Jewish) and dhabiha (Islamic). Regulations also may extend to butchery products sold in accordance with kashrut and halal religious law. Governments regulate ritual slaughter, primarily through legislation and administrative law. In addition, compliance with oversight of ritual slaughter is monitored by governmental agencies and, on occasion, contested in litigation.

The most controversial aspect of ritual slaughter is the legality of unstunned slaughter, where animal welfare concerns regularly clash with religious concerns, and split public opinion. [1]


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Margolin said the proposed measure “alarmingly, seeks to control and put a headcount on Jewish practice by giving the Minister of Agriculture the power to determine the qualifications of persons performing religious slaughter.”

“Additionally, the draft law will also require a determination of the quantity of kosher meat needed by the local Jewish community. How is this to be done? By creating and supervising a list of Jews in Poland? This law, if passed, carries with it a dark and sinister undertow for Jews—a harking back to occupation, where practice and belief were initially targeted as first steps on the road to our eventual destruction,” he said.

Margolin called for the Polish government and President Andrzej Duda to stop the bill from becoming law.

In early 2018, Poland proposed legislation banning kosher slaughter until it was removed from the parliamentary agenda later that year.

Jewish law mandates that an animal be healthy and not injured before kosher ritual slaughter, or shechita, and that rendering it immobile (or pre-stunning it) is prohibited hence, the animal cannot be used.

“There is no ‘nice’ way of killing an animal,” said Margolin. “Either we should all become vegetarian, or we must accept that kosher slaughter is no more cruel than any other method.”


Polish government under fire over draft animal welfare law

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Polish farmers take part in a demonstration against a proposed ban on fur farms and kosher meat exports in Warsaw, Poland, Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2020. (AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski)

WARSAW – Poland’s governing conservative party has come under fire from its coalition partners and the opposition alike over a draft law that would ban fur farms and the use of animals in shows and circuses, and restrict the ritual slaughter of livestock.

The proposed animal welfare legislation debated in parliament Wednesday has been strongly advocated by the ruling Law and Justice party leader, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, who recently said it brings Poland in line with European Union standards. He added that “all good people” should back it.

But lawmakers from much of the political spectrum — including members of the ruling party’s two junior coalition partners — said the proposed law poses a threat to the key animal farm industry and its thousands of jobs. Many called for it to be withdrawn from debate and reworked.

In a vote late Wednesday, they sent the draft to the parliamentary agriculture commission for fine-tuning.

Poland is among Europe’s leading exporters of fox and mink fur, and of kosher meat.

Agriculture Minister Jan Krzysztof Ardanowski has separately warned that the draft law would further batter a sector already weakened by the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Hundreds of farmers staged a protest Wednesday outside Kaczynski's office and in front of parliament against the proposed tightening of animal rights regulations.

However, the liberal opposition Civic Platform party and left wing lawmakers voiced strong support for the government proposals, which were presented shortly after Polish media aired shocking footage of conditions at one of the country's fur farms.

The proposed law would ban growing animals to be killed for their fur, using them for entertainment and in circuses or keeping them — especially in the case of dogs — in tight confinement or on short chains.

It would also restrict ritual slaughter, only allowing it for the needs of religious groups in Poland, but not for export. Critics say this would deal a severe blow to animal produce exporters, but the government argued it only brings 11 million zlotys ($2.9 million 2.5 million euros) in tax.

Similar draft legislation by Law and Justice was rejected a few years ago after pressure from the fur farm lobby.

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.


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WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Poland’s governing conservative party has come under fire from its coalition partners and the opposition alike over a draft law that would ban fur farms and the use of animals in shows and circuses, and restrict the ritual slaughter of livestock.

The proposed animal welfare legislation debated in parliament Wednesday has been strongly advocated by the ruling Law and Justice party leader, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, who recently said it brings Poland in line with European Union standards. He added that “all good people” should back it.

But lawmakers from much of the political spectrum — including members of the ruling party’s two junior coalition partners — said the proposed law poses a threat to the key animal farm industry and its thousands of jobs. Many called for it to be withdrawn from debate and reworked.

In a vote late Wednesday, they sent the draft to the parliamentary agriculture commission for fine-tuning.

Poland is among Europe’s leading exporters of fox and mink fur, and of kosher meat.

Agriculture Minister Jan Krzysztof Ardanowski has separately warned that the draft law would further batter a sector already weakened by the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Hundreds of farmers staged a protest Wednesday outside Kaczynski’s office and in front of parliament against the proposed tightening of animal rights regulations.

However, the liberal opposition Civic Platform party and left wing lawmakers voiced strong support for the government proposals, which were presented shortly after Polish media aired shocking footage of conditions at one of the country’s fur farms.

The proposed law would ban growing animals to be killed for their fur, using them for entertainment and in circuses or keeping them — especially in the case of dogs — in tight confinement or on short chains.

It would also restrict ritual slaughter, only allowing it for the needs of religious groups in Poland, but not for export. Critics say this would deal a severe blow to animal produce exporters, but the government argued it only brings 11 million zlotys ($2.9 million 2.5 million euros) in tax.

Similar draft legislation by Law and Justice was rejected a few years ago after pressure from the fur farm lobby.

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Polish lawmaker backs Jews fighting proposed ritual slaughter ban

Yaakov Schwartz is The Times of Israel's deputy Jewish World editor.

As the Polish parliament gears up to vote next week on legislation that may effectively ban ritual slaughter in the country, one opposition MP wants the Jewish community to know he’s on their side.

“I think my country is making a mistake. I cannot understand it. I think this is the stupidest thing they could do,” Michal Kaminski of the Union of European Democrats (UED) told The Times of Israel.

“I think they destroyed the very good relations between the Polish and Jewish people that has grown since Polish independence,” he said in an interview.

Poland is currently a large exporter of kosher and halal meat across Europe, Turkey and Israel. Similar legislation was passed in early 2013, resulting in a hiatus on all kosher and halal animal slaughter until the law was overturned by the constitutional court in late 2014.

“These restrictions on kosher slaughter are in complete contradiction to the principle of freedom of religion of the European Union,” said European Jewish Association (EJA) Chairman Rabbi Menachem Margolin.

“I call on the Polish government to not legislate this shameful law and to take into consideration that the Jewish people’s trust in the Polish leadership is deteriorating. I don’t want to imagine what the next stage will be after legislating the Holocaust Law and putting limits on kosher slaughter in the country,” he said.

The potential slaughter ban comes on the heels of the controversial “Holocaust bill” ratified earlier this month that could ostensibly impose jail time of up to three years on “whoever accuses, publicly and against the facts, the Polish nation, or the Polish state, of being responsible or complicit in the Nazi crimes committed by the Third German Reich,” according to the language of the bill.

Since the law passed, Jews in Poland and around the world have bristled, and Israel issued a series of rare reprimands against its ally. There has also been an increasing amount of anti-Semitic rhetoric in the Polish media in response to Jewish pushback against the Holocaust bill.

A journalist for one of Poland’s largest radio stations posted on Facebook about a “war with the Jews” the state-run television station tweeted that the Jews opposed the law because they wanted to seize Polish property (and then subsequently apologized to the Israeli ambassador) and a former priest distributed and sold t-shirts denying responsibility for a Polish-perpetrated pogrom against Jews under the German occupation.

Still, Kaminski emphasizes that the anti-ritual slaughter legislation, which has been raised numerous times over the last months, is neither a reprisal for outspoken opposition to the Holocaust bill nor does it stem from anti-Semitic motives.

“I’m in deepest opposition to this government,” said Kaminski, “but I absolutely believe they are not anti-Semites. I think – I hope – they are decent people.”

A matter of animal rights, not religious freedom

Kraków-based Klaudia Klimek, chairperson of the Social-Cultural Association of Jews in Poland and chief of staff for UED, agreed that the primary focus of the legislation isn’t ritual slaughter, but animal rights in general. She said that most of the bill deals with issues such as fur production and animal cruelty by pet owners.

“The main thing is that there should be a stipulation that allows kosher slaughter for the country’s religious communities,” she said. “But as long as the local communities are able to practice freedom of religion, then if that’s what Polish society wants – if they want to have a humanitarian way of killing animals, you can’t really say no. I mean, other countries also have those kinds of laws.”

It is also unclear whether the proposed law would completely ban the ritual slaughter of animals, or if it would just affect the commercial production and export of kosher and halal meat. The bill has undergone several changes since its introduction in October, and legislators are reportedly still unsure exactly what they’ll be voting on next week.

“We’ll only know next week when we get the official text of the bill, but as far as we know right now, there is no provision [to allow ritual slaughter] for the local community,” said Klimek.

The EJA said in a statement, however, that even if the bill only targeted large commercial exporters of meat while allowing the local Jewish community to continue ritual slaughter on a smaller scale, this would affect Jewish communities across Europe.

But keeping it local, Klimek said that the Jewish and Muslim communities in Poland are small enough not to need factories to produce enough kosher and halal meat to feed the Polish population. Likewise, though prices might go up if the commercial slaughterhouses are moved elsewhere, that might not exactly spell disaster for observant Jews on the continent and may indeed be a needed boon for animal rights.

“When we imagine kosher slaughter, we think about the shochet [ritual slaughterer] standing in front of the cow, making his knife very perfect, cutting in a smooth move, and the animal goes to sleep,” Klimek said.

“That’s what we have in our heads,” she said. “But that’s not what is happening in the factories. Animals know that they’re going to be killed. They’re listening to each other because they’re not knocked unconscious [before being killed], so they know something bad is about to happen.

“They’re upside down in these metal cages, and nobody is checking if the cutting was done well or not, so if it wasn’t done well, the animal is sometimes choking to death rather than bleeding out. Nothing nice is happening there.”

Other countries could pick up the knife

While prices on kosher meat in Israel and parts of Europe might go up temporarily if ritual slaughter were to be banned in Poland, another similarly-positioned country in central Europe could potentially pick up the slack. When there was no kosher meat production in Poland from 2013 to 2014, Lithuania made a strong bid to act as a replacement.

France and Britain are among the countries that would be most affected were commercial production of kosher meat to temporarily cease, but any repercussions would likely not have a tremendous impact on the relatively large markets.

Shechita UK, an advocacy group that seeks to protect the Jewish right to ritual slaughter, is keeping tabs on the situation. The group kept comments to a minimum as discussions about the bill continue to take place behind closed doors.

“We have been working closely with Polish Chief Rabbi [Michael] Schudrich and are monitoring this situation as it develops,” a Shechita UK spokesman told The Times of Israel.

Meanwhile, Klimek suggests that the ritual slaughter law simply be removed from the larger animal rights bill and voted on independently as a bill of its own. She said that this would make sense because ritual slaughter is a religious issue, and also because as it stands now, lawmakers are likely to feel pressured to vote to ban ritual slaughter simply because it’s part of the larger animal rights package.

She said by separating it from blatantly immoral issues such as animal abuse by pet owners, the ritual slaughter bill law could be voted on based on its own merits.

“I think voting on it as a standalone issue would help people approach the topic in a fair way,” Klimek said. “This would be the most fair thing for the Jewish community, the meat producers, and the parliamentarians.”

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Anti-Semitism in Poland in part of a larger European problem

Relations between Poland and Israel are in their deepest crisis in memory in the wake of Poland’s move to criminalize criticism of Polish collaboration with the Nazis during the Holocaust.
To understand why this state of affairs is dangerous, regrettable and difficult to resolve, it is important to consider it against the backdrop of wider European-Israel and European-Jewish relations.

Poland is a very antisemitic country. According to a 2008 Pew survey of European sentiments towards Jews, Poland is the second most anti-Jewish country in Europe (Spain is first). 36 percent of Poles express hostility towards Jews.

Poland’s anti-Semitism is a problem. But even with its extensive bigotry against Jews, Poland isn’t the worst country in Europe from a Jewish or an Israeli perspective, which just goes to show how hostile Europe is to Israel and to Jews.

Iceland’s parliament has initiated legislation to ban, effectively, the practice of Judaism within its borders. A law proposed by Progressive Party MP Silja Dogg Gunnarsdottir seeks to criminalize the circumcision of newborn males. In accordance with the biblical imperative, all Jewish boys must be circumcised at eight days. Muslim male children also undergo ritual circumcision.

Under the bill now under consideration, anyone caught circumcising a baby boy in Iceland will face up to six years in jail.

Gunnarsdottir’s bill enjoys wide support in Iceland’s parliament. According to a report in the Times of Israel, “lawmakers from four parties, with 46 percent of the seats in parliament, including the ruling party, co-authored her bill.”

There are only 100-250 Jews in Iceland, which has an overall population of some 300,000 people. But as the Jewish Communities in Nordic Countries wrote in an open letter, if the bill passes into law, “Iceland would be the only country to ban one of the most central, if not the most central rite in the Jewish tradition in modern times.”

Iceland is not the only country that supports banning this ritual, which is so basic to Jewish life. In Germany in June 2012, the Cologne district court criminalized ritual circumcisions. Two months later, the Cologne district attorney filed criminal charges against two rabbis for performing ritual circumcisions on Jewish newborn males.

The Cologne ruling marked the first time ritual circumcision was banned in Germany since the Nazis outlawed the practice in the 1930s. A major crisis was averted when in October 2012, German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government approved a bill permitting ritual circumcision throughout Germany. The Bundestag passed the bill several days later.

Then there are Sweden, Norway, Finland, and Denmark. In 2013, the children’s ombudsmen in those countries called for the banning of infant male circumcision. The following year, medical associations in Denmark and Sweden called for the practice to be banned. So far, these campaigns have not stimulated legislative action.

If the bids to ban circumcision weren’t enough, there is the European war on kosher meat to consider. Jewish ritual slaughter is currently under assault in Britain. In parts of Belgium, in the Netherlands, Sweden, and Denmark it is prohibited.

To some degree, the campaigns against Jewish ritual slaughter of animals are a byproduct of larger campaigns to discourage Muslim immigration. Lawmakers ban kosher slaughter along with Islamic halal slaughter of animals to avoid claims of racism by Islamic groups.

But antisemitism is also a motivating factor. In Sweden, for instance, the law criminalizing Jewish ritual slaughter was passed in 1937, inspired by Germany’s Nazi laws criminalizing Judaism, which preceded the Holocaust. Until 1988, the Swedish law included only beef. It was extended in 1988 to include poultry.

As bad as the campaign to criminalize Jewish religious practices is, it is but one component of the growing threat to Jewish life in Europe. The most pressing threats imperiling Jewish communities in western and northern Europe are anti-Jewish violence and discrimination. Both scourges are rooted predominantly, and indeed, almost entirely, in Muslim communities in those countries.

Rather than contend with the threat, European governments are criminalizing discussion of the phenomenon. European media outlets ban voices warning of the growing menace to Jews emanating from Muslim communities. The identity of anti-Jewish Muslim assailants, and even the fact that Jews are victimized because they are Jews, are routinely obfuscated and denied.

The final major threat to Jewish life in Europe stems from European governments. By viciously criticizing Israel, European governments encourage an atmosphere of antisemitism and give moral license to antisemites. European governments provide financial and political support for groups and individuals who criminalize the Jewish state and intimidate its Jewish supporters.

European lawmakers applaud Palestinian leaders who absurdly and maliciously accuse Israel of poisoning Palestinian wells as carrying out a genocide against Palestinians. European governments underwrite groups that slander the Israeli military as a terrorist group. They legislate discriminatory laws requiring labels to be affixed on Israeli products, encouraging consumer boycotts of Israeli exports.

European governments and political parties celebrate anti-Israel terrorism. Political groups – particularly leftist groups and parties – attack as evil Jewish communities who object to their glorification of anti-Israel terrorists and political groups. These state-sanctioned and politically-supported actions have engendered an atmosphere in northern and western Europe where Jewish life is increasingly dangerous, and Jews feel increasingly uncertain about their ability to continue to live in their homes. These official policies also cast in doubt the future of European-Israel relations as official Europe has effectively become the main engine of the global campaign to delegitimize the existence of the Jewish state.

This then brings us back to Poland.

Poland’s latest law, which rewrites the history of the Holocaust, is not its first dip in the antisemitic policy sewer.

In 2013, the Polish parliament banned kosher slaughter. Poland’s constitutional court struck down the law, which was passed with a wide majority. In the midst of the current crisis in relations between Poland and Israel, the Polish parliament’s lower house is expected to pass a new version of the law this week.

But again, for all of its anti-Jewish bigotry, unlike its northern and western European neighbors, Poland has not adopted a hostile posture towards Israel. Indeed, over the past two decades, relations between Israel and Poland have blossomed.

Moreover, Polish Jewry experienced little of the antisemitic violence and intimidation that Jews in northern and Western European countries have suffered. Most anti-Jewish violence and vandalism in Poland, as in other central and eastern European countries, comes from the political right.

Last December, Poland joined the Czech Republic and Hungary in rejecting the EU’s directive to vote in favor of a UN General Assembly resolution that condemned the U.S. for recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. And Israel and the U.S. both expressed their gratitude.

But then the Polish parliament passed the law saying that anyone who tells the truth about widespread Polish collaboration with the Nazis will be liable for up to three years imprisonment. Sunday Polish President Andrzej Duda pledged to sign the bill into law.

It is critical to understand that the Polish law is simply legally mandated historical revisionism. According to Holocaust historian Jan Grabowski, Poles were responsible for the murder of more than 200,000 Jews who managed to escape the Nazi death camps and ghettos. Polish Nazi sympathizers and collaborators either turned these Jews over to the Nazis or killed them themselves. Grabowski documented the Polish role in the Holocaust in his book Hunt for the Jews: Betrayal and Murder in German-Occupied Poland.

The Polish law is not the first of its kind. Latvia, Lithuania, and Ukraine, whose nationals collaborated with the Nazis, have similar laws banning discussion of their collusion with the genocide of their Jewish neighbors. Like the Polish law, the Ukrainian, Latvian, and Lithuanian laws were all conceived as a means to rally populist support and spark nationalist enthusiasm from their highly antisemitic populations, who refuse to acknowledge or consider the implications of their collaboration with the Nazis.

In all these cases, the basic motivation behind the legislation appears to be the antisemitic belief that Jews unfairly “enjoy” Holocaust-related victimhood, and that Poles, Latvians, Lithuanians, and Ukrainians ought to be entitled to similarly “reap the benefits” of perceived victimhood.

Unlike the other laws, which were largely overlooked, Poland’s law ran into a political buzz-saw in Israel, which made it impossible for the Poles to quietly table the bill or redraft it in a less obnoxious way.

Israelis naturally oppose any move that minimizes or excuses the systematic genocide of a third of the Jewish people in the Holocaust. Had the Israeli government had the opportunity to discuss the law in a serious way with the Polish government before issue hit the headlines, a way might have been found to avert the crisis. But once the public was made aware of the Polish bill, a quiet resolution became impossible.

In Israel, word spread about the Polish law on January 27 shortly after the Polish lower house passed the bill. Opposition lawmaker Yair Lapid reacted to the passage of the law with an irate posting on his Twitter account in English.

“I utterly condemn the new Polish law which tries to deny Polish complicity in the Holocaust. It was conceived in Germany but hundreds of thousands of Jews were murdered without ever meeting a German soldier. There were Polish death camps and no law can ever change that,” he wrote.

Lapid followed up with several other incendiary posting recalling his grandmothers’ suffering during the Holocaust.

Lapid’s tweets were key for two reasons.

First, while Lapid has an excellent feel for populism, he is not the world’s most educated man. In all the centuries of organized Polish antisemitism, the one crime the Poles never committed was running death camps.

In saying that the reason to oppose the antisemitic Polish law was the necessity of highlighting alleged Polish death camps, Lapid was feeding the perceived Polish need to revise history in its own favor.

Second, Lapid, whose Yesh Atid Party is a secularist party, wrote his posts during the Jewish Sabbath, when official government operations are suspended. By the time the Sabbath ended on Saturday night, the issue was at the top of every news broadcast. Any attempt by the government to lower the flames would have been attacked by the media and the political opposition as a bid to sacrifice the history of the Holocaust on the altar of good relations with an antisemitic government in Warsaw.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu could not afford to be seen as the leader who is afraid to tackle Polish antisemitism, while Lapid, who is the leading candidate to replace Netanyahu in the event of new elections, grasped the title of foremost defender of Israeli pride in the world.

In other words, Lapid used Poland’s populist antisemitic law as a populist ploy of his own.

Rather than carefully walk away from the hornet’s nest it stepped on, the Polish government doubled down.

On Sunday, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki escalated the crisis in relations when he slandered Holocaust victims during his remarks at the Munich Security Conference. Morawiecki alleged that Jews contributed to the perpetration of the Holocaust, saying wrongly that in the Holocaust “there were Polish perpetrators, as there were Jewish perpetrators, as there were Russian perpetrators, as there were Ukraine and German perpetrators.”

The crisis in relations between Israel and Poland over Warsaw’s desire to ban honest discussion of Poland’s role in the Holocaust has eclipsed every other issue relevant to Israeli-European ties. No air is left in the room to consider, for instance, the physical peril in which the Jews of France now live. No one is talking about Europe’s role in protecting Iran from U.S. sanctions. All anyone can find time to talk about is Poland and its law banning discussion of the truth about the Holocaust.

Due to the extensiveness of Polish antisemitism, it would be foolhardy for Israel or Poland to aspire to a long-term resolution of the problem. But in the interest of maintaining mutually beneficial bilateral relations, both sides are going to have to make some difficult accommodations to one another.

Israel is going to have to acknowledge that living with officially supported antisemitism is the price of relations with European states, just as it is the price of doing business with Arab states. Part of this accommodation will involve backing off its efforts to change or abrogate the Polish law.

For its part, the Polish government is going to have to restrain its anti-Jewish reflexes at least publically. To this end, the Polish government should avoid additional antisemitic and fraudulent remarks about the Holocaust and about Jews more generally.

The world is often an unpleasant place. Europe in particular has never kicked its antisemitic habit. It isn’t Israel’s job to transform Europe. It is Israel’s job to secure its interests, and when necessary, to do so in cooperation with governments it doesn’t like that have values it abhors.


Which Way Are We Going?

There is an enormous interest in the traditional methods of food preparation. A customer is well aware of the present state of the meat industry and expects his products to be healthy. There is an universal dislike towards chemicals and people want to know what goes inside. And they start to make those products at home if only once or twice a year. After just one year our organization Wedliny Domowe has grown so much that its First National Convention took place in August 2006. In addition to hundreds attendees a number of professional courses and demonstrations were offered. The second gathering in 2007 (3 days) seems to be even bigger with guests from other countries.


Polish government under fire over draft animal welfare law

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Poland’s governing conservative party has come under fire from its coalition partners and the opposition alike over a draft law that would ban fur farms and the use of animals in shows and circuses, and restrict the ritual slaughter of livestock.

The proposed animal welfare legislation debated in parliament Wednesday has been strongly advocated by the ruling Law and Justice party leader, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, who recently said it brings Poland in line with European Union standards. He added that “all good people” should back it.

But lawmakers from much of the political spectrum — including members of the ruling party’s two junior coalition partners — said the proposed law poses a threat to the key animal farm industry and its thousands of jobs. Many called for it to be withdrawn from debate and reworked.

In a vote late Wednesday, they sent the draft to the parliamentary agriculture commission for fine-tuning.

Poland is among Europe’s leading exporters of fox and mink fur, and of kosher meat.

Agriculture Minister Jan Krzysztof Ardanowski has separately warned that the draft law would further batter a sector already weakened by the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Hundreds of farmers staged a protest Wednesday outside Kaczynski’s office and in front of parliament against the proposed tightening of animal rights regulations.

However, the liberal opposition Civic Platform party and left wing lawmakers voiced strong support for the government proposals, which were presented shortly after Polish media aired shocking footage of conditions at one of the country’s fur farms.

The proposed law would ban growing animals to be killed for their fur, using them for entertainment and in circuses or keeping them — especially in the case of dogs — in tight confinement or on short chains.

It would also restrict ritual slaughter, only allowing it for the needs of religious groups in Poland, but not for export. Critics say this would deal a severe blow to animal produce exporters, but the government argued it only brings 11 million zlotys ($2.9 million 2.5 million euros) in tax.

Similar draft legislation by Law and Justice was rejected a few years ago after pressure from the fur farm lobby.

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


A Massacre in a Forest Becomes a Test of Poland’s Pushback on Wartime Blame

Two researchers are on trial for writing that a Polish mayor was complicit in a massacre. Critics say the government is trying to emphasize Polish suffering in World War II and downplay complicity in Nazi crimes.

MALINOWO, Poland — From a forest on the edge of this tiny village in eastern Poland, a distant and mostly forgotten local horror is reverberating widely. It has cast a pall over the 30 villagers who live nearby, reached into a courtroom in Warsaw, and is now radiating distress around the world over the rewriting of Holocaust history.

The case has its roots in the Nazi occupation of Poland during World War II, when terrified Jews took shelter in the forest and, according to a survivor cited in a recent Polish study of the Holocaust, were murdered there after the wartime mayor of Malinowo, a Pole, told the Nazis of their hiding place.

That horror, however, has now resurfaced, revived by a libel suit against two scholars who edited the study and who stand accused of besmirching the honor of the long-dead mayor and the Polish nation. A verdict in the case, which was brought by the elderly niece of the mayor with support from bodies funded in part by Poland’s government, is expected Tuesday.

The targets of the libel action are Jan Grabowski, a Polish-Canadian history professor at the University of Ottawa, and Barbara Engelking, a historian with the Polish Center for Holocaust Research. Together they edited “Night Without End,” a 1,700-page 2018 study on the role played by individual Poles in aiding Nazi murder.

“In a normal world this case would have been dismissed long ago,” Professor Grabowski said in an interview. “But Poland can no longer be considered a normal democracy,” he added, accusing the governing Law and Justice Party of starting a “reconquest of history” by focusing on Poland’s own suffering during the war and downplaying its complicity in Nazi crimes against Jews.

The Polish government denies any involvement in the libel case. But it helped make it possible by amending the law in 2020 to waive court costs for all cases connected with “the struggle of the Polish Nation against Nazism and Communism.”

In a sign that the libel suit is not an isolated incident, the police in eastern Poland recently summoned the editor of an online site about Jewish life to ask why she had “insulted the Polish nation” by writing that “Polish participation in the Shoah is a historical fact.”

Before it was invaded in 1939 by Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, Poland had Europe’s largest Jewish population. As the war expanded and Hitler turned on his erstwhile Soviet ally, conquered Polish lands became the focus of the Nazis’ Final Solution, with around three million Jews — half the total number killed across Europe — murdered in Poland, mostly in death camps like Auschwitz and Treblinka.

But Poland never installed a collaborationist government and is proud of its record of fierce resistance to the Nazis.

This pride, however, has taken on an aggressive, intolerant edge since the Law and Justice Party took power in 2015. It has sought to criminalize any questioning of Polish wartime heroism and poured money into research groups and museum projects that present Poland as Europe’s perpetual and entirely blameless victim, a “Christ of Nations” repeatedly crucified by foreign powers.

Walentyna Golaszewska, a 64-year-old resident of Malinowo, said she grew up hearing stories about how her grandparents had taken food to Jews hiding in the forest. She was shocked to learn that the then-mayor, Edward Malinowski, has now been accused of aiding their murder.

“I thought this whole thing would have gone away with my grandfather’s generation. It all happened over 70 years ago and everyone is now dead. None of us can really know the truth,” she said.

She recently ordered a copy of the study coedited by Professor Grabowski because she wanted to learn more about events obscured for so many years by family legend and village gossip.

“It is very hard to explain why one person helps and another person kills,” she said.

Also hard to explain, she added, is why the wartime mayor’s niece, Filomena Leszczynska, had decided to sue Professor Grabowski and Ms. Engelking for libel and damages of around $27,000.

The niece, who is nearly blind and lives on the edge of the village next to her family’s farm, declined to be interviewed. A young relative said she was too sick to talk.

Professor Grabowski and his supporters believe the case originated with nationalist groups close to the government, like the Polish League Against Defamation, which receives funding from the state.

In a telephone interview, Maciej Swirski, the head of the League Against Defamation, denied acting on behalf of the state or the Law and Justice Party. But he acknowledged that he had helped initiate the libel case. He said he had traveled to Malinowo and told Ms. Leszczynska that he had found errors in the book, proving that her uncle was maligned.

Mr. Swirski said his organization had raised money from private donors to pay Ms. Leszczynska’s lawyers and finance her suit.

The libel complaint alleges that the scholars maliciously smeared the wartime mayor as a murderer, when he had “hid Jews and did this absolutely selflessly.” His niece, the complaint says, was “very hurt” and wanted to keep “the memory of her heroic uncle alive.”

Critics of the action see it as a fight to silence independent historical scholarship. Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust memorial and research center, denounced it as “a serious attack on free and open research,” saying it was “unacceptable” to set limits on academic study “through judicial or political pressure.”

Professor Grabowski acknowledged that the study erred by conflating the histories of two former Malinowo mayors who shared the same name, Edward Malinowski. But, he said, this error put Ms. Leszczynska’s uncle in a better light because it ascribed to him acts of kindness toward Jews by his younger namesake.

In 2012, shortly before his death, the younger Edward Malinowski was invited by Jewish groups to attend a ceremony in the Malinowo forest unveiling a stone memorial decorated with a Star of David.

“The war ended 75 years ago, but it still lives on in our bones. It will last forever,” Mr. Malinowski’s son, Zygmunt, recalled on Saturday during a visit to the memorial.

Poland, he said, should recognize that it was not only Nazis who killed Jews. But in eastern Poland, “Poles suffered no less than the Jews,” he said.

The libel case has received extensive favorable coverage from media outlets controlled by the Law and Justice party and the book at the center of the case has been denounced by the Institute of National Remembrance, a state body that has spearheaded efforts to keep history on a narrow, patriotic path. The institute has prosecutorial powers to enforce what since 2018 has been an official mission that includes “protecting the reputation of the Republic of Poland and the Polish Nation.”

That Poles suffered horrendously under Nazi occupation and sometimes helped Jews is established fact, said David Silberklang, senior historian at Yad Vashem in Israel.

“No scholar with any credentials would say Poland was evil, that Poland was completely indifferent to the fate of Jews,” Mr. Silberklang said in a telephone interview. “It was a clearly a very complex situation.”