Dutch Jews are beginning to wonder what's coming next after the lower house of the Netherlands parliament voted Tuesday to approve a ban on ritual slaughter of animals for kosher and halal meat. The bill, sponsored by the country's Animal Rights Party, stipulates that livestock must be stunned before slaughter.
In Jewish law, meat must by prepared through ritual slaughter before it can be declared kosher. Likewise, Islam requires similar procedures for halal meat but does not prohibit slaughter after stunning. A possible loophole in the new law – which has yet to pass the upper house of the parliament -- allows religious groups to continue the practice of ritual slaughter, if they can prove it is no more painful than stunning.
According to greater Netherlands Chief Rabbi Binyomin Jacobs, who was interviewed by INNseveral months ago on anti-Semitism in Holland, many Jews have called to ask what the future holds, given the fact that such a law could pass.
“Old people are scared, and young people who are just married are calling me to ask if they should stay here. Today it is the shechita and tomorrow, what? Circumcision? People are afraid,” Jacobs told the Reuters news agency.
“This is very painful,” Jacobs noted. “Those who survived the [second world] war remember the very first law made by the Germans in Holland was the banning of shechita, or the Jewish way of slaughtering animals.”
Although regulations in the European Union require stunning of animals prior to slaughter, exceptions are allowed for ritual slaughter. According to the European Court of Human Rights, production and purchase of ritually slaughtered meat is a religious right.
Nevertheless, a number of Scandinavian and other European countries have banned ritual slaughter, including Sweden, Norway, Luxembourg and Switzerland. Activists in Switzerland are also working to secure a ban on the import of halal and kosher meat -- a fallback plan that both Jews and Muslims might be forced to rely upon, should the Dutch ban pass in the upper house of parliament as well.