Dutch Jews, Muslims unite over ritual slaughter

Senior Dutch rabbi tells 'The Jerusalem Post' that a ban would apply “double standards that target minorities.”

December 14, 2011 07:15
2 minute read.
Muslims stand next to sheep  for ritual slaughter

Ritual slaughter 311. (photo credit: Reuters)


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THE HAGUE – Hundreds of Jews and Muslims pleaded with Dutch senators in Amsterdam this week to reject legislation banning ritual slaughter.

The Dutch Senate is scheduled to vote on the issue next week.

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One senior Dutch rabbi told The Jerusalem Post that a ban would apply “double standards that target minorities.”

The parliament voted in June to effectively ban Jewish and Muslim ritual slaughter. For this to become a law, however, the Senate must ratify the bill introduced by the Party for Animals. The bill forbids any slaughter that isn’t preceded by stunning, calling it inhumane.

Both Islamic and Jewish law requires that animals be conscious before slaughter.

“It’s very clear that [the] Senate is much more skeptical than parliament of this bill’s merits,” Raphael Evers, rabbi of the Federation of Jewish Communities in The Netherlands, said after attending a conference in Amsterdam on Sunday.

Some 600 people were at the gathering – mostly of Muslim or Jewish origins – including two Dutch senators who participated in a panel discussion.

In parliament, the anti-Muslim Party for Freedom, led by Geert Wilders, and the ruling VVD party supported the bill.

However, VVD senators said they would vote against the proposed legislation, making its passing dependent on the Labor Party’s vote. Labor has not announced its position ahead of a Senate discussion scheduled for December 13.

“The argument for infringing on our freedom of worship is moral, yet this moral is only applied to Jews and Muslims,” Lucien Nix, a lawyer from Amsterdam and member of Labor said at the meeting on Sunday.

He was commenting on figures presented to the parliament in June, which show that out of 500 million animals slaughtered non-ritually each year in Holland, five million suffer “abuse.” This figure is five times higher than the annual total of animals that undergo ritual slaughter.

Turning to the two senators present, Nix asked: “If animal welfare is so important, why do our legislators tolerate this ‘abuse’? The bill is judicially untenable.”

Martine Schlingmann, spokeswoman for the Party for Animals, declined to comment on this.

Gerrit Terpstra, a senator for the Christian-Democratic Appeal who attended the conference, said his party – a coalition partner – would oppose the bill. The other senator in attendance, Labor’s Nico Schrijver, told the Post his party would need to “thoroughly consider the issue” before taking a stand.

“We are sensitive to civil and minority rights, but slaughter must conform to 21st-century standards,” he added.

Ritual slaughter is currently banned in Sweden, Norway, Finland, Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania. Switzerland permits it for poultry.

Prof. Afshin Ellian, an Iranian- born professor of law from Leiden University, called the bill “nonsensical and non-liberal” but judicially tenable.

“There are European precedents and grounds to restrict freedom of worship in favor of animal welfare,” he said.

“But is [stunning with a] bolt through the brain better than a slit throat?” Focusing on the cup half full at the conference in Amsterdam, Sami Kaspi – a Morocco-born Jew – thanked the Party for Animals for “uniting Dutch Jews and Muslims in solidarity for a shared cause.”

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