Netherlands may exempt kosher slaughterhouse from export ban

After ban on exports nearly closes country's only kosher slaughterhouse, government agrees to consider special exemption.

Contact Editor
JTA,

Meat
Meat
Thinkstock

The Dutch government may exempt the country’s only kosher slaughterhouse from a newly-introduced export ban, which the Jewish abattoir said is financially devastating.

Caspar Itz, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Economic Affairs, said this in an email Tuesday to JTA. He was replying to JTA’s questions following the publication of a letter penned by the lawyer of the Slagerij Marcus abattoir. The letter said that the slaughterhouse will not survive the implementation of a government policy paper from July 5, which said the production of meat without stunning will be limited to the needs of faith communities in the Netherlands.

“Upon request, special circumstances may be taken into account” when it comes to the de facto ban in export, Itz wrote. His letter did not say whether such an exception will apply to the Jewish-owned abattoir specifically.

The limitation on the export of kosher and halal meat came in an agreement signed by Economic Affairs Minister Martijn van Dam and Muslim and Jewish faith and community leaders, including from the Organization of Jewish Communities in the Netherlands, or NIK. An extension of a 2012 agreement on the production of kosher and halal meat, it introduced a new stipulation on export.

A clause in the document signed July 5 states that meat may be produced without stunning the animals, as is common in kosher slaughter, but that such meat will “not exceed the actual needs of communities present in the Netherlands.”

The slaughterhouse’s lawyer, Herman Loonstein, wrote to NIK that this stipulation means bankruptcy for Slagerij Marcus, which relies on export for approximately 40 percent of its revenue.

Religious laws in Islam and Judaism require animals be conscious when their necks are cut. Animal rights activist consider this practice cruel, though its advocates argue it results in less or equal suffering compared to industrial slaughter methods with stunning. Nationalists and anti-Islam activists also oppose ritual slaughter in Europe, ostensibly because they view it as foreign to their native culture.

NIK last week published a statement dismissing the kosher slaughterhouse’s concerns as “unfounded.” Marcus can “continue to do business as it has always done; business as usual. An export ban is not under consideration and would violate EU rules,” NIK wrote.

Marcus can also “continue to export if it is necessary to provide the Dutch market in a profitable way. This has been agreed explicitly in the negotiation of the agreement,” NIK added.

But the agreement signed with the ministry mentioned neither Slagerij Marcus nor special circumstances that apply to its situation.

Itz, the ministry spokesperson, did not reply when asked whether his ministry shares NIK’s interpretation of a ban on export being a violation of EU laws. He only wrote that, “The agreement’s implementation will be done in accordance to EU laws.”

In 2011, the Dutch lower house passed a ban on ritual slaughter with support from the Party for the Animals and the far-right Party for Freedom. But the Dutch Senate reversed the ban, arguing it was infringing on freedom of worship.

Two of Belgium’s three regions have passed regulations in recent weeks outlawing the production of kosher and halal meat.