Dutch vote to ban ritual animal slaughter, Jews and Muslims unite in protest

June 28, 2011

(Marianne Thieme, leader of the Dutch Animal Rights Party, at a goat farm in Amstelveen, the Netherlands, December 11, 2006/Koen van Weel )

The Dutch parliament voted on Tuesday to ban ritual slaughter of animals, a move strongly opposed by the country’s Muslim and Jewish minorities, but left a loophole that might let religious butchering continue. The bill by the small Animal Rights Party, the first such group in Europe to win seats in a national parliament, passed the lower house of parliament by 116 votes to 30. It must be approved by the upper house before becoming law. It stipulates that livestock must be stunned before being slaughtered, contrary to the Muslim halal and Jewish kosher laws that require animals to be fully conscious.

“This way of killing causes unnecessary pain to animals. Religious freedom cannot be unlimited,” said Marianne Thieme, head of the Animal Rights Party, said before the vote. “For us religious freedom stops where human or animal suffering begins.”

In a rare show of unity, the Netherlands’ Muslim and Jewish communities — numbering about 1 million and 40,000 respectively in a total population of 16 million — have condemned the proposed ban as a violation of their religious freedom. “The very fact that there is a discussion about this is very painful for the Jewish community,” Netherlands Chief Rabbi Binyomin Jacobs told Reuters. “Those who survived the (second world) war remember the very first law made by the Germans in Holland was the banning of schechita or the Jewish way of slaughtering animals.”

Uca Octay of Rotterdam’s Islamic University said: “We will have to import halal meat from neighboring countries or find another way to meet the needs of the Muslim population. Becoming vegetarian could be an option as well.”

The law said religious groups could continue ritual slaughter if they proved it was no more painful than stunning, but it was not clear how to do this. The Jewish community has challenged a study on animal pain used to support the ban.

Chief Rabbi Jacobs said the exemption in the law stipulated “that we must prove the animal slaughtered the Jewish way suffers less or the same as with stunning, but this absolutely impossible to prove. You can’t ask the animal how it feels afterwards. Nobody can prove this.”   He said that he’s been getting calls from many people in his constituencey to ask what the ban could mean for them. “Old people are scared and young people who are just married are calling me to ask if they should stay here, today it is the schechita and tomorrow what, circumcision? People are afraid.”

“Holland is a sophisticated country and other countries look to Holland as an example, and we are afraid of the domino affect, that other countries will follow. This is the reason so many countries are watching the Netherlands today, ” he said.

“For us this is not acceptable. It puts us in the position which is not acceptable,” Ruben Vis, a director of the Jewish community in the Netherlands said.  “Firstly, we will have to find ways how to serve needs of members of our community in the Netherlands,” he said. “And secondly it’s a problem of freedom of religion, which is granted by the constitution. It feels like a separation between us, as the oldest religious group here, and Dutch society.”

(An Halal butcher shop in Paris during Ramadan August 12, 2010/Jacky Naegelen)

Britain’s Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks visited the Netherlands last week to lobby against the law, arguing that pre-stunning failed in up to 10 percent of cases and that caused more pain than the swift cutting of the throat by a razor-sharp knife.

Philip Carmel, International Relations Director for the Conference of European Rabbis in Brussels, stressed the upper house of parliament could still reject the law.”We are totally opposed to this law. We’ve been campaigning heavily against it. We believe the Dutch parliament and people, who have a history of tolerance, will see sense and make the right decision,” he said.

Dutch Muslims, mostly of Turkish and Moroccan origin, have complained they felt stigmatized by the planned ban, debated amid growing support for anti-Islam populist Geert Wilders. A court cleared Wilders last week of charges of hate speech against Muslims. His Freedom Party has supported the ban.

“There was no reason for passing this law,” said Imam Mahmut of the El Tawheed mosque in Amsterdam. “This is a political decision. Who has the authority to determine whether the way of killing animals is good or not?  Their way of killing the animal is not good either. The killing takes longer and the animal suffers more.” He said Muslims in the Netherlands will turn to imported meat now. “It shouldn’t be the problem. The meat can be imported to the Netherlands from neighboring countries,” he said.

European Union regulations require animals to be stunned before killing but allow exceptions for ritual slaughter, which the European Court of Human Rights has ruled is a religious right. Animal rights activists insisit this is inhuman. Carmel said the European Parliament last week rejected a bid by animal rights advocates to have kosher and halal meat specially labeled as coming from unstunned animals. (See a similar European Jewish Congress report here)

Luxembourg, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland ban ritual slaughter. Swiss animal rights groups and far-right politicians have called for a ban on imported halal and kosher meat.

Of the 500 million animals slaughtered annually for food in the Netherlands, only 1.2 million animals are slaughtered according to Muslim or Jewish traditions, Dutch statistics show.

(A kosher McDonald's restaurant in Tel Aviv March 2, 2006. The signs display the word "kosher", both in Hebrew and English. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun)

Rabbi Moshe Stiefel, rabbi of thecentral Dutch province of Flevoland, said after the vote:  “We are absolutely disappointed. It’s very unfortunate that the Dutch Governement doesn’t respect freedom of religion, and it’s not just the fact that we can’t have kosher slaughtering in this country, it goes deeper than that. Our freedom of religioun
isn’t being respected in the Netherlands. Where could this lead to in the future?”

“Theoretically speaking the law could still be blocked, since it still has to be passed by the upper house of parliament. Of course we hope this happens. If this law is
passed it won’t leave us any rooom for kosher slaughtering in the future.”

In France, home to Europe’s largest Jewish minority,  Richard Prasquier, head of the CRIF umbrella group of Jewish organisations, said Jewish ritual slaughter rules were “set up in such a way as to reduce the animal’s suffering to a minimum, with slaughtering done by professionals with years of experience. In this sense the Jewish community has largely anticipated the aims and desires of all the organisations seeking to reduce the suffering of animals.”

“It’s important to understand that if that possibility is not left open, observant Jews will no longer be able to live out their Judaism normally within their country and will have to find somewhere else to live,” he told Reuters. “This is not an adaptation that can be resolved by a sort of consensus among rabbis. It is part of very ancient
traditions which rabbis can only pass along. There is no adaptation possible. We should not be worrying only about ritual slaughtering when animal suffering exists in many other areas, from hunting to bull-fighting to intensive livestock farming.”

By Ivana Secularac, with additional reporting by Roberta Cowan, via Dutch vote to ban religious slaughter of animals | Reuters.


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I am a Jew and I strongly support this ban. Animal or human cruelty are not excused by “tradition” or religion of any kind. I hope an infant-circumcision ban is next.

The rabbi who claims that rabbis are “helpless” to change the religious laws is a liar or misinformed. They make the rules and they can do whatever they want. They make new laws all the time to adapt to new circumstances and new knowledge. Either they make the changes or the whole religion will go the way of the cave man.

Posted by JS7 | Report as abusive

This is a cruel non-Dutch non-European custom. It should be made illegal fortwith

Posted by giltedged | Report as abusive

I totally agree with Marianne Thieme. Enough of hiding behind religion to commit cruel acts against animals or people and Rabbi Binyomin Jacobs using the Second World War is to protest this ban is a cheap way to support this horrible way of killing animals and a disrespect to the victims of the war. Religion and its laws are made by men so they should abide to the laws that govern all citizens. Fortunately we have laws that go beyond religion. Muslims and Jews can become vegetarians if they disagree with the non halal and kosher killing. It’s bad enough that we butcher animals but inflicting more pain in the name of religion is not acceptable in the XXI century.

Posted by Strega17 | Report as abusive

If religious freedom means permitting the wholesale slaughter of animals to appease a god, then the true nature of religion as a wanton celebration of death is fully exposed. Killing for food is all well and good, but killing in the name of cultish practices must surely represent, at best, the stagnation of social and intellectual – indeed, moral – evolution. Death for no reason is murder, be it man or beast, and our laws, if they do in fact represent the best of human reason and fairness, must halt these practices and the resulting – and continuing – denigration of non-human species as inferior entities to be abused as we see fit, which they most certainly are not.

Posted by rglenncurry | Report as abusive

Shechita is at least as humane as any other method of animal slaughter. The trachea, the esophagus, and the carotid & jugular veins are severed in a smooth cut, with no pressure or tearing, with a knife so sharp the animal literally cannot feel the cut. Brain blood pressure drops instantly, resulting in an instant and irreversible loss of consciousness. In other words, shechita incorporates stunning at least as effective as electric shock or a bolt to the brain. (More effective, really, considering how often the pre-stunning goes wrong, leaving the animal conscious and in pain.)

Also, electric shock can paralyze the animal while leaving it conscious, feeling pain but not able to thrash about. Shechita causes unconsciousness before the animal can feel pain, though the peripheral nervous system may cause disturbing-looking thrashing about. The Dutch vote is a choice for the semblance of stunning over the real thing.

Posted by jcsalomon | Report as abusive

Anybody thinking that this ban is a break with the tradition of toleration in The Netherlands, it is not.

Radical enlightenment in the Netherlands is about individual rights, not about rights of religious authorities to mistreat humans or animals. Remember the Puritans did not leave Leiden because they were not free to practice religion, but because they were forbidden to whip their believers if they did not attend religious services. A similar story can be told about the Pilgrim Fathers, who did not like to see the freedom of others usurping the moral character of their children.

Spinoza even proposed to introduce a neutral state religion that would substitute the often violent religious cults. Like always, the Dutch found a more viable compromise like the above the one on ritual slaughter. Compromise was the real secret of tolerance.

Fanatics that threatened the peace were usually better tolerated in the colonies, like New Holland (Northern Brazil) and New Netherlands (roughly Tri-State). In fact communists avant la lettre, like Plokhoy settled in New Netherlands (now Delaware)

The Netherlands has a humanistic tradition, the protection of humans and animals against suffering from ancient rituals is entirely in line with this tradition. Whether fundamentalist believers like it or not.

Posted by johaster | Report as abusive

[…] make matters more grotesque, there is a bizarre loophole. If Jews and Muslims can prove that their method of slaughtering is more humane, a.k.a., involves […]

Posted by Party for the Animals « The Revealer | Report as abusive

Banning ritual slaughter will make the Netherlands inferior to the U.S. on religious freedom. If it claims problems exist with slaughter it had better make general regulations with all slaughter instead of what is trying to do which is target the Muslim community with then the Jewish community being dragged along for the ban. The Jews were given freedom of religion and person by Holland escaping inquisition and massacre. This will be a stain on Holland especially since Jewish ritual slaughter is meant to be as swift as anything and Judaism has a prohibition on pain to animals “Tzaar Baalei Chayim.”

Posted by YDSA | Report as abusive

Ritual slaughter,hope,faith,salvation and eternal
damnation?Welcome Netherland,Switzerland outlawed
the barbaric ritual by popular referendum over
100 years ago.

Posted by Hansdampf | Report as abusive

[…] of council by 116 votes to 30. It still contingency be authorized by a top residence before becoming law, according […]

Posted by Jews and Muslims protest Dutch vote to ban ritual animal slaughtering | Believe Me When I Tell You | Report as abusive

[…] out the full story from Reuters: http://blogs.reuters.com/faithworld/2011  /06/28/dutch-vote-to-ban-ritual-animal- slaughter-jews-and-mu… Comments […]

Posted by What Would Captain Planet Do? » Blog Archive » Dutch demand that Muslims and Jews stun animals before putting their meat into krokets. Animals demand to stop being slaughtered for krokets. | Report as abusive

Speaking as a Jew, I would like to offer my support in your decision to abolish as unlawful the Kosher Slaughter method.
This slaughtering method inflicts a lot of unnecessary pain upon the slaughtered animal, which can and should be prevented.
Rabbis have been finding all sorts of ways to bend and go-around the orthodox Jewish traditions and laws, in order to enable acceptance of modern comforts into Jewish way of life. This important issue should be no different.
It’s time to stop this barbarous ceremony! It’s more than possible to be a Jew without it!

My congratulations on your initiative to reduce pain!

Posted by SHARONALE | Report as abusive