The Dutch parliament voted June 28 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,” 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 one 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 neighbouring countries or find another way to meet the needs of the Musl im population.”
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.
“This is absolutely impossible to prove,” Jacobs said. “You can’t ask the animal how it feels afterwards.”
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 believe the Dutch parliament and people, who have a history of tolerance, will see sense and make the right decision,” he said.