What’s been described in news reports as “an unlikely alliance of animal rights advocates and xenophobic far right politicians” has come together to support a bill now before the Dutch Parliament that would ban the ancient tradition of ritual slaughter of animals espoused by members of the Jewish and Islamic faiths.
Holland, of course, has a long tradition of openness and personal freedom, as anyone who’s walked the streets of Amsterdam can attest. In fact, back in the 1600s, soon after the Protestant Revolution, the country became one of Europe’s first to allow Jews to openly practice their religion.
But due to political expediency, that tradition may soon be turned on its head, as Marianne Thieme, a leader of the Party of the Animals and a member of parliament, has joined with the xenophobic Freedom Party to support the ban on kosher and halal slaughter.
You can guess where Thieme and her ilk are coming from.
“Islamic and Jewish traditions were way ahead 3,000 years ago when it came to treating animals well,” she wrote on her blog. “But that does not change the fact that based on new insights, their methods of slaughter are in need of reform today.”
The far right’s embrace of the bill, which is expected to go to a parliamentary vote later this month, is based on its outright hostility toward the growing Muslim population in the Netherlands. Not surprisingly, Jewish and Muslim groups both labeled the initiative an affront to freedom of religion.
“I can speak for the Dutch Jewish Community, and I think for the wider Jewish world, that this law raises grave concerns about infringements on religious freedom,” Ruben Vis, spokesman for the Netherlands CJO, an umbrella of Jewish organizations, told YnetNews.com.
Abdulfatteh Ali-Salah, director of Halal Correct, a certification body for Dutch halal meat, said he felt the debate “made Muslims feel Dutch society is more interested in animal welfare than fair treatment of its Muslim citizens. If the law goes through now there’s nothing else to do but protest,” he said. “And that's what we’ll do.”
Under Jewish and Muslim dietary laws and practices, animals must be slaughtered while still awake, by swiftly cutting the main arteries of their necks with razor-sharp knives.
The science surrounding such slaughter techniques is uncertain. A 2009 study in New Zealand that monitored calves’ brain waves during kosher slaughter concluded that the animals probably were aware of their pain. That led New Zealand to outlaw the practice in 2010.