The far-right Austrian Minister who said he wants to register Jews in a plan reminiscent of the Nazis has backpeddled on his proposal after worldwide outrage.
The bizarre plan by Gottfried Waldhausl, the Minister in charge of animal welfare for the Austrian state of Lower Austria who is a member of the far-right Freedom Party of Austria (FPO), was blasted by international media and Jewish organisations across the world who said it reminded them of Adolf Hitler’s antisemitic laws.
Waldhausl argued that a registry was in the interest of animals because by registering Jewish citizens and only allowing them to buy kosher meat it would reduce the amount of animals that need to be killed in the way he deems as cruel to animals.
The Austrian far-right politician said he was surprised by the worldwide outrage and emphasised that he never intended to “keep lists of Jewish citizens”.
Waldhausl said: “I’m not a fool who wants a list of Jewish citizens.”
He said however that he still plans to curb the ritual slaughter of animals by Jews and Muslims alike, something he said he agreed on with the state’s biggest party, the conservative Austrian People’s Party (OVP), as well as with the Social-democratic Party of Austria (SPO).
Waldhausl said: “That 4,000 sheep are being brought from all over Europe to us for the Feast of Sacrifice, only to be butchered here – I’m against that.”
Johanna Mikl-Leitner, the conservative head of government of Lower Austria, said it is a “particularly sensitive topic” and asked for “a factual discussion”.
Mikl-Leitner said: “Religious freedom is very important for us. But also the protection of animals is very important in our state.
“That’s why there have to be special requirements. But it certainly will not happen in Lower Austria that individual customers have to register first.”
Picture Credit: CEN (Archive Pictures)
She said that she is in close touch with Oskar Deutsch, the president of the Jewish Cultural Community who previously said Waldhausl’s registry plans were “like a negative Aryan clause”, referring to antisemitic laws implemented in the country after Adolf Hitler annexed Austria in 1938.
Jews are only allowed to eat Kosher meat which comes from animals that have had their throats cut in a ritual slaughter.
According to Waldhausl’s plan, Jews would only be allowed to buy kosher meat if they are officially registered with the authorities on a special list and granted a special permit.
Waldhausl said that only registered Jews who actually live in the state should get local kosher meat as he hopes to curb exports to Vienna and places further away.
He said: “It is difficult to see why the Viennese travel to Lower Austria and have thousands of animals slaughtered here.
“We are not here in Lower Austria to provide meat to the Viennese.”
The state of Lower Austria, which has a rich farming and livestock tradition, encircles the capital of Vienna where the vast number of Austrian Jews live.
On a federal level, Austria is currently being governed by a right-wing coalition of the far-right FPO and conservative OVP, with telegenic Chancellor Sebastian Kurz (OVP), 31, leading the country.
The FPO was set up by former Nazis in the 1950s and has hardline views on immigration and the EU.