Dutch Bill bans halal and kosher slaughter of livestock


THE DUTCH parliament has voted overwhelmingly to ban the ritual slaughter of livestock. This could halt production of kosher and halal meat in the Netherlands – and lead to similar campaigns in other European countries.

However, Jewish and Islamic groups which can prove animals do not suffer more during ritual killing than in an ordinary slaughterhouse will be able to apply for permits.

In a move aimed at further defusing the controversy over the proposed ban, deputy prime minister Maxime Verhagen gave an undertaking no new legislation would be signed into law until approved by the senate. Dutch law requires animals to be stunned before slaughter, but has long allowed an exemption for Muslims and orthodox Jews, who can legally butcher animals according to their centuries-old dietary rules.

However, a Bill tabled by the Animal Rights Party (PvdD), which holds only two seats in the 150-seat parliament, aims to remove that exemption on the grounds that unstunned slaughter is unnecessarily cruel.

“Animals suffer more and are more distressed if they are not stunned,” said Animal Rights Party MP Esther Ouwehand, welcoming last night’s decision which backed the ban by 116 votes to 30. “In Norway and Sweden, these measures have already been taken – and we now hope to inspire other countries.”

As expected, the Bill was backed by the Liberals (VVD), by the Labour Party (Pvd), and by Geert Wilders’s extreme-right Freedom Party (PVV). It was opposed only by the Christian Democrats (CDA) and the tiny Calvinist Reformed Political Party (SGP).

The campaign to remove the exemption has caused an international outcry from Jewish and Muslim groups. They say their method is no more painful or cruel. “If we no longer have people who can do ritual slaughter in the Netherlands, we will stop eating meat,” said Chief Rabbi Binyomin Jacobs. “One of the first measures taken during the second World War and the occupation was the closing of kosher abattoirs . . .”

Sir Jonathan Sacks, Britain’s chief rabbi, joined the campaign to retain the exemption last week. “If pre-stunning were made compulsory under Dutch law, Jews would be unable to practise a central element of Jewish life,” he said.

The controversy is remarkable in how it has united Muslim and Jewish pressure groups.