Sacks: Dutch bill endangers shechita in Europe

Upcoming vote on Jewish religious slaughtering in Netherlands puts Kosher meat "under great risk," UK's chief rabbi says.

June 24, 2011 04:21
2 minute read.
Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks.

rabbi sacks UK 311. (photo credit: Courtesy)


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Jewish religious slaughtering in Europe is at risk if the upcoming vote to ban shechita in the Netherlands passes, UK Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks warned on Wednesday.

“Shechita is under great risk at the moment,” he said on the sidelines of the President’s Conference in Jerusalem.

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Sacks, who is also a member of the House of Lords, was flown to the Netherlands last Thursday to speak with Dutch parliamentarians on behalf of the right of Jews to continue their practice.

Still, he said “there is a parliamentary majority now against religious slaughter. I hope we can avert this legislation.”

The Dutch parliament is set to vote this Tuesday on a bill prohibiting slaughtering animals in the Netherlands that have not been prestunned, which would include Jewish shechita and the Muslim halal methods.

Not only the small Dutch Jewish community would face repercussions if such a law passed.

“We are worried that it could spread,” Sacks said of such a ban. “There has been a nonstop campaign by animal welfare activists to have all forms of ritual slaughter banned. They fought for it in the 1990s and it comes up from time to time. It has to be fought everywhere because if it’s lost anywhere it has a potential domino effect.”

“I don’t think it’s going to be resolved that quickly,” Sacks said. “If we lose,” and shechita is banned, “we lose quickly. If we win, we'll win slowly.”

He continued, “We have established with [the Dutch minister in charge of the issue] some possible line of compromise. We would hope for much stricter regime of licensing and inspecting,” the lack of which was the official reason behind the Dutch initiative.

“In Britain, there is very tight regulation,” he said.

I chair the body that licenses all Jewish ritual slaughterers in Britain. They are licenses valid only for one year, so they have to be regularly reexamined and the government is satisfied that we regulate and inspect in a way that is sufficiently vigorous and transparent. And they trust us.”

Sacks said he made the strongest possible argument to members of the Lower House, Upper House and the minister that pre-stunning fails in the minimum of 3 percent of the cases, and up to 10%.

“Prestunning that fails causes great suffering and distress to the animal, therefore, I do not see pre-stunning as an advance for animal welfare at all,” he said.

“We are convinced, as the latest research studies show, that shechita, when done properly, is the most painless method. So I have argued to all the parliamentarians that pre-stunning may well be much more harmful to animal welfare than shechita.”

The European Parliament decided last week to remove a clause from an upcoming vote that would have determined that meat slaughtered without stunning, i.e. kosher and halal products, would have to be banned as such.

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