In Austria, kosher meat only for 'registered Jews'
Member of Austria's Freedom Party Gottfried Waldhäusl proposes to allow vending of kosher meat strictly to Jews who register on special lists; outcry rises among Jewish community in Vienna; community head says it's a reminder 'we have to stay on our guards.'
Oskar Deutsch, the head of Austria’s Jewish community, explained that under the initiative, the sale of kosher meat will be restricted only those registered as Jews who observe Kashrut on a regular basis. Furthermore, export of kosher-slaughtered meat will be completely barred.
Vienna's kosher restaurants and businesses receive most of their kosher meat from the Lower Austria region, where the proposal was initiated.
If the proposal is passed into law, it would restrict ritual slaughter for both Jews and Muslims, as both religions require animals to be slaughtered without prior anesthetization.
The Department of Environmental Protection in the Lower Austrian government, which is responsible for animal welfare, approved the proposal on Tuesday, stressing however that it is merely a draft.
Waldhäusl, who heads the department, said that, "to prevent cruelty to animals, I support the kosher slaughter restrictions in any legal way possible."
The initiative sparked uproar mainly since it proposes to have lists of Jews who keep kosher.
"Waldhäusl is seriously suggesting that Jews and Muslims who want to purchase kosher meat will have to register," Austria's former chancellor Christian Kern wrote on his Facebook page. "The proposed registration reminds one of the darkest chapter in our history.”
Animals slaughter without prior anesthetization as required by the Halacha is forbidden in several countries throughout Europe, including Norway, Switzerland, Sweden, Denmark and Iceland.
Austria has strict supervision over animal slaughter, and animal slaughter without prior anesthetization requires the presence of a veterinarian.
Similar initiatives appear to be a prevalent trend across Europe. Nevertheless, the fact it was formulated by the FPO—a prominent partner in Austria's coalition since December 2017—causes its critics unease, to say the least.
The far-right party, which gained a quarter of the votes in the last elections, was established in the 1950's by a former S.S officer and became one of Austria's largest parties in the 1990's.
"We are not sheep that just accept everything," the head of Austria’s Jewish community vented. "I've spoken to Lower Austria's prime minister, who promised me the proposal will not pass. However, Waldhäusl's remarks are an indication of the nature of the Freedom Party's members and (is the proof) we have to be our guard."