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.
In the last few weeks, religious slaughter seems to have become the main issue in public debate in the Netherlands. It all started a few months ago with a private law proposal by Marianne Thieme, the leader of the small Party for the Animals. She wants to prohibit unstunned religious slaughter.
On Tuesday, two days before Parliament breaks for vacation, the vote on the proposal by Thieme and the amendment of the four parties is expected to take place. If the proposal passes, it has clear anti-Semitic characteristics. It mainly singles out a practice of the small Orthodox Jewish community.
Her proposal initially seemed to aim mainly at the Muslim community. Halal meat accounts for more than 99% of the meat from animals slaughtered without stunning. Gradually, it became clear that Orthodox Jews would be the main victims of this law, as only a minute percentage of halal-eating Muslims insist on slaughter without stunning.
Slowly but surely, the Party for the Animals managed to whip up emotions while its scientific claims were being refuted. The party posted videos on the internet which showed ritual slaughter outside of the Netherlands. The proposal based itself on two “scientific reports.” The Dutch public and many parliamentarians thought that these had been prepared by the reputable agricultural University of Wageningen.
Last week, the exposure of fallacies accelerated. A court case brought by two Jewish community organizations was heard on Thursday. The University of Wageningen denied any connection to the reports, nor were any of its employees involved. The documents had in fact been prepared by Wageningen UR, a privatized government organization with a name resembling that of the university.
The Jewish community in a press release said that the experimental report was no more than a pilot test. It has now asked the court to summon the author of the study.In the meantime, the author has admitted that his study cannot be considered “pure scientific research.”
The experimental report has raised a large number of critical questions from Professor Joe Regenstein of Cornell University in the U.S. His criticisms are supported by Professor Temple Grandin of Colorado State University, the world’s leading expert in the field of animal slaughter.
Karen Soeters, the head of the Scientific Research Institute of the Party for the Animals claimed that Regenstein was biased. In the natural sciences however, concrete answers have to be given as to the reproducibility of experiments. Personalizing the debate is a caricature of science.
Soeters also made similar absurd remarks on another issue. TNO, a leading Dutch organization of applied science published a very critical report on the shortcomings of the methodology of the two Wageningen UR reports. Soeters said that TNO had no more competence in this field than an organization of car dealers and garage owners.
Another false suggestion of the Party for the Animals was that the Rabbinical Assembly of the Conservative Movement in North America supports kosher slaughter after stunning. In a public statement, the Rabbinical Assembly asked for an apology. In addition many American experts whom I have asked said that there is no kosher slaughter in the U.S. under Conservative supervision that they know of.
On the political front, absurdity also prevails. In several parties of which the parliamentarians wanted to support Thieme, there was major dissent from the members. A congress held by the left liberal D66, instructed the parliamentarians to vote against Thieme’s bill.
Together with the Labor Party, the Liberals and the Green Left, a D66 parliamentarian therefore proposed last Thursday an amendment on Thieme’s law. It will allow unstunned religious slaughter, provided that the slaughterer can prove that his method isn’t any more painful to the animals than stunned slaughter.
The practical result of this motion will be to end kosher slaughter, identical to what Thieme had proposed. This was exposed the next day by a Dutch historian Amanda Kluveld, in a national daily De Volkskrant.She pointed out the poor basis of what had falsely been presented as a scientific approach to animal suffering. She also said that reverse proof as proposed in the motion of the D66 was a faulty approach. Scientific proof for their position should be brought in the first place by those who had proposed the law and the amendment.
Kluveld added that the practices of the single Jewish ritual slaughterer in the Netherlands had never been investigated. It was nonsensical to ask from this one person to bring scientific proof, whereas the proposers of the amendment had been incapable of substantiating their case scientifically.
Kluveld concluded that “the parliamentarians debate this topic based on assumptions, fiction and prejudice. They simply do not have a clue about what happens in kosher slaughter in the Netherlands, how it takes place and how much animals suffer from it.”
The Jewish community came out against the motion in a press release. It added: “Everyone agrees that the kosher slaughter of chickens causes less suffering to the animals than industrial slaughter. Does this mean that the 300 million chickens which are now slaughtered in the Netherlands will be slaughtered according to kosher laws?”
The Party for the Animals should be concerned with an industry full of practices which indeed cause lengthy suffering and stress to hundreds of millions of animals. However, It is simply a new mutation of the old and well-known techniques of those who target Jews, while not addressing much bigger issues of others.
Danielle Pinedo, “Joodse instanties willen auteur rapport ritueel slachten horen,” NRC, 25 June 2011 [Dutch]
Amanda Kluveld, “Ook amendement koosjere slacht deugt niet,” Volkskrant, 24 June 2011 [Dutch]