A controversial vote is set to take place in Holland’s parliament this month which could determine the future of Dutch Jewry. Marianne Thieme, leader of the small Party for the Animals, has proposed that religious slaughter without stunning the animal first be outlawed.
A Dutch parliamentary commission has agreed to hear a Jewish and a Muslim delegation this Thursday on the issue. UK Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks will take part in the meeting, having been invited by the representatives of the local Jewish community.
Dr. Manfred Gerstenfeld, Director of the Institute for Global Jewish Affairs, has written an open letter to the MPs of the Dutch parliament, decrying the faulty research that was cited to “prove” that Jewish ritual slaughter – known as shechita (sh’khitah) – is less humane than electro-shocking, which has a significant 5-8% failure rate at first try, causing pain and suffering to the animals. Over 12 million pigs are killed by electro-shock in Holland each year, meaning approximately 500,000 failures, but only 3000 kosher animals are ritually slaughtered.
Gerstenfeld, who is also the Chairman of the Board of Fellows at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, writes that the placing the burden of proof upon the Jewish community to show that existing kosher slaughter is as humane as regular “stunning” slaughter “only fits a non-democratic state.”
The open letter was published on a major Dutch website, and within an hour, Volkskrant, one of the largest national dailies, put it on its website.
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, and condemned the unscientific attacks on kosher slaughter.
The Party for Animals cited a report by Wagerningen University against kosher slaughter. However, Prof. Joe Regenstein of Cornell University, who studied the Wageningen report, has noted its “mistakes, misjudgments and other serious shortcomings,” and is supported in his criticism by international expert Prof. Temple Grandin of Colorado State University. TNO, a respected Dutch scientific research organization, joined the critics of the report.
Gerstenfeld has also written an op-ed for IsraelNationalNews on the topic, noting that the joint letter by the American Jewish organization “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.”