Despite protests from Jewish groups and an appeal to Liberal Prime Minister Mark Rutte, Holland is set to ban shechitah, following the Socialist party’s decision to support a proposal from the pro-animal party, the world’s first such party to be elected to parliament in 2006.
The proposal, which claims that there is evidence that ritual slaughter causes animals unnecessary paid and suffering, is likely to get a majority of votes at the Dutch parliament next week, political observers said.
Both Jewish kosher slaughter and Muslim halal slaughter demand that slaughter is carried out with a single cut to the throat. In ordinary abattoirs, animals are usually stunned before being killed.
The extreme right Party for Freedom (PVV) led by Geert Wilders supports the bill out of its hostility toward the Dutch Muslim population. According to the press, Wilders has an interest in helping the bill pass because his party uses the “animal lover” tag as part of its pitch against Halal butchering.
However, Wilders casts himself as a friend of Israel and the Jews, and by supporting the ban vote he risks losing their support.
Most Dutch favor a ban but many centrist and religious parties feel the issue is a distraction from the more serious issue of abuses at regular slaughterhouses. One of the two members of the governing coalition led by Mark Rutte, the Christian Democrats (CDA), oppose the law out of fear for damage to the country’s international image as a haven of tolerance for religious minorities.
According to the EJC, “a lot of misinformation surrounding kosher slaughter is being spread ahead of the vote.” “There is no scientific evidence that the Jewish ritual slaughter causes any additional unnecessary pain to the animal than stunned slaughter,” he said, referring to a study conducted by the Wageningen University “that proves the opposite, that Shechita is more animal friendly than many other types of slaughter.”
Holland has a great tradition of tolerance and was one of the first countries in Europe to allow Jews to live openly with their religion in the 17th century.
The other member of the coalition, the liberal VVD party, has not yet determined which way it will vote.
Jewish and Muslim groups have called the initiative an affront to freedom of religion.
“I can speak for the Dutch Jewish Community and I think for the wider Jewish world, that this law raises grave concerns about infringements on religious freedom,” said Ruben Vis, spokesman for the Netherlands’ NIK, an umbrella of Jewish organizations.
“What’s worse is that there is no conclusive scientific evidence that slaughter without stunning is more harmful or painful for animals,” Vis of the CJO said.
In a letter to the Dutch Prime Minister ahead of the vote, European Jewish Congress (EJC) President Moshe Kantor said that the legislation would violate Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights, namely the right to freedom of religious practice.
He also pointed out that Muslim ritual slaughter does not expressly forbid pre-slaughter stunning of animals, meaning that the legislation affects only the Jewish community and its slaughter of a couple thousand animals each year.
If the legislation passes, it would make Holland the first European Union country to ban kosher slaughter and it might have a domino effect threat in other parts of Europe.
New Zealand,, the Scandinavian and Baltic countries as well as Switzerland currently ban ritual slaughter.
Around 45,000 Jews live in Holland.