Holland appears set to enact a ban this week on shechita, the practice of kosher ritual slaughter.
Despite an appeal to Prime Minister Mark Rutte and protests from Jewish groups, a proposed ban on the practice is likely to pass in the Dutch parliament, according to a report in the European Jewish Press.
Some 45,000 Jews live in Holland at present, many of whom may be affected by the legislation.
The proposal, advanced by the pro-animal party, claims there is evidence the practice of kosher slaughtering causes animals unnecessary pain and suffering. In most regular meat processing plants, animals are usually stunned prior to slaughter. Both Jewish and Muslim groups are actively opposing the legislation.
The extreme-right Party for Freedom (PVV) led by Geert Wilders is also likely to support the ban, according to political observers, due to the perception that it will restrict Muslim halal butchering.
However, in a letter to the Dutch prime minister ahead of the vote, European Jewish Congress (EJC) President Moshe Kantor noted that Muslim ritual slaughter does not prohibit pre-slaughter stunning of animals. Thus, the legislation would really affect only the Jewish community, which does not allow stunning.
Kantor wrote in his letter that the bill would violate Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights – the right to freedom of religious practice.
“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 group for Jewish organizations. “What's worse is that there is no conclusive scientific evidence that slaughter without stunning is more harmful or painful for animals,” he said.
An anti-shechita amendment to the European Union's food labeling laws was rejected late last year by the European Council of Ministers. However, the Rabbinical Center of Europe (RCE) warned the issue might yet come up again for another vote this year as well.
Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland, the Baltic nations and Switzerland have had a ban against shechita in place since before World War II.
New Zealand recently outlawed the practice of Jewish ritual slaughter as well. The ban is being challenged by the Jewish community there.