THE HAGUE — Jewish and Muslim representatives appealed to Dutch lawmakers not to enforce a law amendment banning ritual slaughter as breaching the human rights of their religious minorities, Agence France Presse (AFP) reported on Thursday, June 16.
"We are against any form of stunning because it's against our religion," Yusuf Altuntas, president of the Contact Body for Muslims and Government (CMO), an organization that links the Muslim community with the Dutch government, told a parliamentary commission.
The parliamentary session held on Thursday was intended to discuss a proposal submitted by a pro-animal party, the Party for Animals (PvdD), to ban ritual slaughter.
The party, which holds two seats in the 150-seat Dutch parliament, said that such ritual slaughter causes unnecessary pain to the animal.
Dutch law required animals to be stunned before being slaughtered but made an exception for ritual halal and kosher slaughters.
The required law amendment, expected to abolish this exception, would affect Holland Muslim and Jewish minorities by banning Islamic halal and Jewish shechita.
According to the Islamic and Jewish ritual, the animal is slaughtered by a sharp blade.
The proposed ban is expected to get a majority nod from lawmakers after winning support from the Socialist party.
The extreme-right Party for Freedom (PVV) led by Geert Wilders is also likely to support the ban.
If the legislation passes, it would make the Netherlands the first European Union country to ban kosher slaughter and it might have a domino effect in other part of Europe.
"The animals suffer more and are more distressed if they are not stunned," Esther Ouwehand, a PvdD parliamentarian told AFP.
"By getting this modification in the law, we hope to inspire other countries," she added, pointing out that in Norway and Sweden these measures had already been taken.
Jewish rabbis attacked the move as echoing actions taken during the years of World War II which breached human rights of religious minorities.
"One of the first measures taken during the Occupation (during World War II) was the closing of kosher abattoirs," Dutch Chief Rabbi Binyomin Jacobs told lawmakers during the debate in The Hague.
Currently, some 250,000 animals are slaughtered yearly without being stunned beforehand, Abdelfattah Ali-Salah, director of Halal Correct, the organization which issues halal certificates in the country, said.
Willing to compromise, religious leaders offered to implement some measures which they said would ease the animals' suffering, especially better controls in abattoirs where ritual slaughters were performed
They also offered an improvement in conditions under which animals were being transported.
Yet, they insisted that ritual slaughter respected the animals' welfare, notably restriction methods used to limit suffering and that those slaughtering received expert training.
"If we no longer have people who can do ritual slaughter in the Netherlands, we will stop eating meat," Chief Rabbi Jacobs said.
Muslims make up one million of the Netherlands’s 16 million population, mostly from Turkish and Moroccan origin.
Dutch Jews number around 50,000.