Hungary unexpectedly leads in kosher goose liver production in Europe – writes Cnaan Lipshshiz in an article for the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.
Europe’s two kosher goose liver factories aren’t in France, which is by far the largest consumer of a fatty liver product. And not even in England, home to Europe’s second largest Jewish community.
Instead, both are located in Hungary – where there are relatively few Jews and a total of up to half a dozen kosher restaurants.
According to the author of the article, this may be partly due to the fact that many critics of the Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán accuse him of using xenophobia as a weapon, including against Jews.
Lipshshiz believes the European Union (EU) has also become increasingly critical of Orban, condemning the refusal to admit asylum seekers, undermining the independence of the judiciary and the recent lawlessness in sharing information about homosexuality with minors.
On the other hand, Belgium, where the EU is based, has recently banned the production of and halal meat – and the EU Supreme Court has recently upheld the ban.
In his opinion, this story has given the Orbán government new opportunities to accuse its opponents of violating civil rights, similar to those they now use against it, and perhaps to place Hungary as the guardian of freedoms curtailed elsewhere in Europe.
The bans, and the decision on them, are “not just an attack on religious freedom, but an attack on our Judeo-Christian heritage and on the Jewish communities in Europe.”
Orbán wrote to Israeli President Isaac Herzog earlier this year.
“Consequently, my government has quickly condemned this unfortunate decision, and we will do our utmost to raise our voices against it in all possible international fora.”
Hungary has not only opposed the restriction of kosher slaughter, ie shechitah, but also provides significant state subsidies and tax breaks to kosher slaughterhouses operating in the country.
The subsidies, together with the animal slaughter policy applied elsewhere in Europe and the disruption of the COVID-19 pandemic supply chain, have made Hungary an accidentally large producer of kosher for European and Israeli consumption. Among the slaughterhouses in Hungary, there are two that were used in Europe exclusively for processing kosher geese.
The Orbán government has been opposed to banning or severely restricting kosher slaughter, which has been achieved for at least seven European animal rights activists, until at least 2014, when Ferenc Kumin, a spokesman for the government, vows to oppose any ban.
Following the Belgian ban, a large chicken slaughterhouse later moved from Antwerp to Hungary last year to remain operational. And when kosher slaughterhouses were closed in the UK due to the COVID-19 epidemic, Hungarians increased production, and one of the goose slaughterhouses, Quality Poultry Ltd. in the village of Csengele, about 75 miles southeast of Budapest, switched to poultry to alleviate the shortage.
England and France “ensure consumption of our kosher products all year round”
Said Slomó Köves, a rabbi in Budapest at the time, whose community, the EMIH, oversees kosher poultry.
“Now it’s our turn to take care of them.”
The slaughterhouse has since returned to the specialty: to cut, prepare and cut the geese, which are stuffed to make their livers large to produce goose liver.
At Quality Poultry Ltd., dozens of workers, most of them from rural Roma communities, work in a modern plant designed around two principles: kosher laws on strict bea and minimal waste. Hundreds of thousands of wings are slaughtered there every year.
The poultry are loaded into cages, directly from the farmer’s truck to the slaughterhouse, where four shakers, Jews trained to make kosher meat, cut through the trachea and main artery of each bird with very sharp knives.
This technique, provided for in ancient Jewish law, is prohibited in several countries because it is done without first stunning the animal. Animal advocates say stunning slaughter is inhumane, while experts in kosher law say it is possible to minimize injury to animals without understanding ritual laws.
“If done well, sudden blood loss will turn off the nervous system.”
said Rabbi Jacob Werchow, chief shrine of Quality Poultry Ltd., to JTA during a recent tour.
“dexterity and practice are required to slaughter geese quickly enough”
– He told.
“Geese have hard cartilage rings in their trachea and have to be hit between these rings, otherwise they won’t be able to cut in one go – and dampen the knife for the next one.”
He said, widening the cut on a dying goose again to examine the incision and showing it to a reporter.
Injuries other than fatal injuries make them attractive, so their body parts are thoroughly examined during processing. If any defects are discovered, the meat is transported to a separate, non-kosher production line to be placed on the general market.
On both production lines, the liver is extracted, cleaned, weighed and packaged raw or cooked for freezing and transport. Each liver weighs 2 ounces and is only worth $ 100 in France, where Hungarian kosher goose liver.
Animal welfare groups in Hungary have noticed the growth of the country’s kosher meat industry and are not happy about it.
“Cutting kosher is not only extra cruel because it doesn’t provide anesthesia for the pain caused by cutting the animal’s neck, but also because the animals see in their full consciousness that their family is being slaughtered. They know what’s next “
– said Richard Kapin, the founder of the Hungarian animal protection organization, Soccer Fans for Animals. Born in Budapest, Kapin is not Jewish.
His organization and others are heavily lobbying for Hungary to ban both kosher slaughter and the forced feeding of geese, including in Israel, the United Kingdom, Finland and Poland. Many animal advocates say both practices are cruel.
“I am very pleased that Belgium has banned kosher cutting”
“I hope this happens here as well.”
Werchow disputed this, saying that forced feeding is painless these days because the food is delivered into the stomachs of geese using flexible silicone sleeves, which causes much more serious discomfort and injury than the metal sleeves replaced in recent years.
“As for the cut, it’s his own anesthesia. It is too fast and sharp to cause pain, and the pressure drop makes the animal unconscious. They will pass out before they actually die. ”
– He told.
But for Kapin, both the cut and the coercion are “extremely cruel,” he said.
The group, led by 36-year-old Kapin, has hundreds of thousands of followers on Facebook
– this is a significant number in a country with only 9.5 million inhabitants.
In other European countries, animal rights activists similar to those pursued by the Kapin have partnered with right-wing politicians in their efforts to ban drug-free slaughter.
Geert Wilders, a Dutch anti-Islamic politician and Belgian Vlaams Belang party, are among the right-wing leaders who have called for a ban on kosher and halal slaughter,
in line with their aim to limit what they call “Islamization,” that is, the influence of Muslim immigrants.
Orbán shares the EU-critical views of these parties and used language similar to that of Muslims: he called immigrants from the Middle East “Muslim invaders”. He is especially great with György Soros, Orbán of Hungarian descent, and who opposes liberal affairs bought in Hungary – everything is included in the EU. (Mazsihisz, Hungary’s largest Jewish organization, accused Orban of encouraging anti-Semitism with billboards criticizing Soros; the EMIH, a rival group linked to Chabad, defended the government.)
One of Orban’s differences with the EU is his government’s resistance to pressure from stunning slaughter
– says Kálmán Szalai, Secretary General of the Action and Protection Foundation, which monitors atrocities against the Jewish community in Hungary.
Szalai said he thought
Orbán cares about Hungarian Jews and religious freedom.
He added that
calling kosher slaughterhouses to Hungary “makes political sense because it makes the EU intolerant and financially advantageous because it provides jobs. So this is a double victory. ”
Slomó Köves does not think that Orbán would politicize the kosher cut in his fight with the EU.
But “the case shows the hypocrisy of a body that accuses Hungary of violating human rights and also committing them against other Jewish and Muslim communities.”
Any further discussion about the cutting of kosher or the production of goose liver in Hungary would run into the issue of national identity.
“Goose liver production is a profitable local tradition”
“Banning it and / or banning the production of kosher would also be outrageous.”
The government’s position against the Saker party is reassuring for the small number of kosher butchers in Budapest.
“Not only the government, but also Hungarian society is traditional”
László Győrfi, owner of a kosher canteen, Kosher MeatUp, told JTA.
“This has its drawbacks and advantages – but that means bans of this kind are not on the agenda at home right now.”