The Dutch Senate is set to reject next week a proposed law banning ritual slaughter of animals, after Jewish and Muslim community leaders in Holland joined forces to protest the bill.
“This compromise is befitting Holland’s long history of freedom of religion and specifically, tolerance towards its Jewish community,” said European Jewish Congress (EJC) President Moshe Kantor in a statement, welcoming the turn in events.
The bill, which had been proposed by Marianne Thieme, leader of the small Animal Rights Party, and had already passed the lower house of the Dutch parliament in June, would have required that animals be stunned before slaughter – which, amounts to a ban on shchita, as well as on halal ritual slaughter, both of which must be performed with the animal fully conscious.
Such a ban is already in place in Luxembourg, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland. The European Union, in turn, also requires animals to be stunned before slaughter but makes exceptions for religiously mandated ritual slaughter.
Under the new Dutch compromise proposal, which was presented this week by Agriculture Minister Henk Bleker, an agreement could be made with Jewish and Muslim slaughterhouses regarding the length of time that an animal is conscious before dying and the number of animals to be ritually slaughtered.
“As Jews, we have a moral and legal injunction to care for the welfare of animals and this carries through into our slaughter, which we submit is one of the most humane,” Kantor said of the compromise. “We are happy to continue our dialogue with Ms. Thieme and all other dissenters because we know we have a powerful case and are prepared to listen to any discussion on cooperation and compromise on this matter.”
The number of animals this bill could affect in Holland is a matter of dispute. According to Theime’s party, there are more than two million animals ─ mainly sheep and chickens ─ ritually slaughtered in the Netherlands every year. Muslim and Jewish groups say the number is far lower and that out of nearly half a billion animals slaughtered in the country last year halal slaughter accounted for about 250,000 and kosher for 2,500.