Dr. Manfred GerstenfeldThe writer has been a long-term adviser on strategy issues to the boards of several major multinational corporations in Europe and North America.He is board member and former chairman of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs and recipient of the LIfetime Achievement Award (2012) of the Journal for the Study of Anti-Semitism.
Why are the Protocols of the Elders of Zion still reprinted in so many languages despite being an obvious falsification?
Some insight into how one stirs up emotions of hate can be gained from studying the present public mood in The Netherlands. Later this month, a parliamentary vote will take place there on a private law to forbid religious slaughter without stunning an animal first.
This law has been proposed by Marianne Thieme, the leader of the small Party for the Animals. Part of its “evidence” brought forward was a video showing shocking examples of religious slaughter without stunning. This was backed up by research reports prepared by a study group from Wageningen University, and an opinion of the Royal Association of Animal Medicine.
Thieme also claims that there are many rabbinical authorities who permit stunning before kosher slaughter. As “proof” she quoted a Jewish law opinion from the Rabbinical Assembly of the Conservative Movement in North America.
This dubious construct found great support among the Dutch public and many politicians. Perceived animal welfare is a pseudo-religion which in secularized Netherlands has great appeal. Hardly any Dutch people know much about the many animal welfare problems of the huge bio-industry or about the physiology of animal slaughter. These people identify much more easily with the perceived feelings of a cow than with the sensitivities of an orthodox Jew.
As more than 99% of animals religiously slaughtered without stunning in The Netherlands are Halal, the proposed law also fits the strong anti-Islam mood. It is fed by Dutch xenophobia, as well as the misconduct of part of the Muslim population. One example: A news item in various papers in 2010, close to the Muslim Sacrifice Feast was titled: “Stolen Sheep Ritually Slaughtered.”
The number of kosher slaughtered animals in The Netherlands, around 3,000 per year, pales even more when compared for instance, to the slaughter of pigs, which is around 12 million per year.
Freedom of religion is guaranteed in the Dutch constitution, however most Dutch are of the opinion that this does not apply to religious slaughter without stunning. Beyond this constitutional aspect, the battle of Muslims and Jews against the proposed law involves little common ground. Kosher slaughterers have to undergo training of many years and slaughter is defined in pronounced detail by Jewish law. Much Dutch Halal slaughter is apparently not executed to very detailed specifications.
That kosher slaughter could become a central issue in a political debate is a major sign of the disoriented society the Netherlands of 2011 has become. Otherwise a more significant question would be how animals live rather than how they die. And as far as they die, the combined animal welfare problems involved in the slaughter of the many millions of stunned animals hugely exceed those which may exist with these few animals slaughtered in a kosher way.
The organized Dutch Jewish community with less than 8,000 members finds itself largely alone in this battle. The community decided to solicit the expertise of a prominent expert, Professor Joe Regenstein from Cornell University in the U.S. He concluded that the Wageningen study group had undertaken insufficient experiments. He added that the information given by it was insufficient for other scientists to judge what was done, thereby making it impossible to reproduce the experiments.
Regenstein said : “Therefore, the conclusions derived from it have no validity as they violate the rules for reporting scientific studies.” These are very severe accusations in the area of natural sciences. The Dutch Volkskrant daily to which Regenstein gave an interview, wrote that he totally demolished the Wageningen report and its conclusions.
Regenstein has since told me that he has shown the Dutch report and his analysis of it to the world’s leading expert, Prof. Temple Grandin of Colorado State University. She approved of his conclusions, including those on the major shortcomings of the Wageningen report.
Regenstein also severely criticized the use of the video in the debate, as it did not refer to the Dutch kosher slaughter situation at all. He also wondered about the position brought of the Royal Dutch Association of Animal Medecine, the more so as many of its members deal exclusively with house pets.
In the meantime, two Jewish community organizations have taken Wageningen University, the Royal Dutch Association of Animal Medecine and the Dutch government to court to provide proof for their statements. In fact the accusations of the Wageningen study group by Prof Regenstein are so severe, that unless these researchers bring reasonable scientific proof for their findings, there is an ethical problem. In that case the University Board should be asked to investigate how such a report could be published under the auspices of this respectable academic institution
The Rabbinical Assembly was shocked when they heard that Thieme had falsely quoted them as approving kosher slaughter without stunning. They have since requested an apology from the Party for the Animals.
Under normal circumstances, the onus would henceforth be upon the Party for the Animals to procure scientific proof backing up its proposed law. It seems however, that in the inverted world of Dutch politics, it is now expected of the Jewish community to prove that kosher slaughter is no less animal welfare oriented than general slaughter.
In the meantime, the Party for the Animals has succeeded in focusing much negative attention upon the Netherlands in Jewish circles abroad.
In a rare move, the Anti Defamation League, the American Jewish Committee, B’nai B’rith International, the Orthodox Union, the Simon Wiesenthal Center and the World Jewish Congress wrote a joint letter to Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte about this issue. They criticized the proposed law for its limitations of freedom of religion, condemned the unscientific attacks on kosher slaughter and stressed Prof. Regenstein’s remarks on the “mistakes, misjudgments and other serious shortcomings” of the Wageningen report.
This joint letter, worded politely, recalled the lengthy historical link between banning kosher slaughter and anti-Semitism and the similarities with the proposed Dutch law. One can only wonder why the authors have expressed their concerns so courteously in view of the way the Party for the Animals unhesitatingly whipped up emotions via a video totally irrelevant to Dutch kosher slaughter, based itself on critically challenged science and released false citations attributed to rabbis.
“Gestolen schaap ritueel geslacht,” AD 20 November 2010. [Dutch]