The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) welcomed the signing of an agreement between the Dutch government and the Jewish and Muslim communities of the Netherlands to protect religious freedom for kosher and halal slaughter while improving animal welfare.
The agreement, signed by Deputy Agriculture Minister Henk Bleker and Jewish and Muslim leaders, upholds the exceptions for kosher and halal slaughter.
While the current law allows religious exceptions to the requirement that all animals be stunned before slaughter, the exceptions had recently been challenged with a bill by the Party for the Animals (PvdD) passed in the lower house of the Dutch parliament on June 2011.
"Even when the stated purpose is animal welfare, any attempt to ban kosher or halal slaughter is an assault on religious freedom," said Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director. "This agreement demonstrates that creative compromises are possible that protect religious freedom while promoting animal welfare. We congratulate the Dutch government and the Jewish and Muslim religious leaders on finding a responsible resolution to the misguided legislation proposed by the Party for the Animals."
Under the agreement, slaughter without stunning is permissible in the Netherlands as long as the animal is unconscious within 40 seconds after its neck artery is cut. If the animal is still conscious after 40 seconds, the agreement requires that it be mechanically stunned.
The ADL had previously condemned the vote in the lower house of the Dutch parliament approving the initiative.
"By voting for a de facto ban on kosher slaughter, the lower house of the Dutch parliament has repudiated the Netherlands' historic commitment to religious freedom," Foxman said at the time.
"Dutch Jews must not be put to the choice of violating a central tenet of Judaism, foregoing fresh meat, or emigrating,” he said. “We call upon the Dutch Senate to prevent this action from leading to a clear violation of religious freedom that has a disproportionate impact on the Jewish community."