Kosher Cows
Kosher CowsIsrael news photo: Yoni Kempinski

The Dutch parliament Tuesday overwhelmingly voted to ban kosher slaughter in the country, but the bill still must pass other hurdles before becoming law. The bill does not affect the import of kosher meat, however, importing meat will be a major financial burden for observant Jews, because of the high cost.

The parliament, in a 116-30 vote, ignored an appeal by Holland’s leading rabbis, who called the proposal irrational. The bill includes a loophole but one which would be difficult to employ. It states that ritual slaughtering by Jews, as well as by Muslims, can be permitted if it can be proved that the method is less painful than stunning, demanded by animal rights activists.

"This is absolutely impossible to prove. You can't ask the animal how it feels afterwards,” said Chief Rabbi Binyamin Jacobs. The legislators ignored an argument by British Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, who visited Holland last week to present evidence that in 10 percent of the cases, stunning actually is more painful than the ritual cutting of an animal’s throat.

The bill theoretically would affect the country’s one million Muslims as well as 50,000 Jews, but Dr. Manfred Gerstenfeld, who has been following the issue closely, told Israel National News that  large majority of Dutch Muslims do not care whether animals are stunned and then slaughtered according to the halal laws of Islam. Jewish law does not allow the practice.

He said that the proposal to ban kosher slaughtering reflects a growing resentment in the Netherlands of the growing Muslim community.

Dr. Gerstenfeld also noted that a product of a secularized country, such as Holland, is the emergence of “pseudo-religions.” One of them is the Animal Rights party. It has two seats in the parliament and sponsored the bill.

“Religious freedom stops where human or animal suffering begins,” according to Animal Rights leader Marianne Thieme.

The bill must be approved by the Senate and the government’s cabinet before becoming law, which could be appealed to the European court on the grounds that it violates the freedom of religion. The European Parliament last week rejected a demand by animal rights activists that kosher and halal meat be specifically labeled as coming from animals that are not stunned.

The Senate cannot defeat the bill, but a rejection would send it back to the parliament.