Holland’s Proposed Ban on Ritual Slaughter Affects Jews and Moslems

imag3-cows cow slaughter

Holland, where religious tolerance has been known since the 16th century, proposes a step backwards to the Dark Ages.

Although here on Green Prophet we advocate adding more vegetables to your diet, we acknowledge the human appetite for meat. In Holland, about 45.000 Jewish and  945.000 Moslem citizens eat only meat slaughtered according to religious law. The problem is, ritual slaughter is about to become illegal in in Holland.

The issue: stunning the animals unconscious before slaughter, a practice prohibited by Jewish law. Islamic law forbids stunning except for certain electric methods. See Tafline’s previous post explaining the European Union slaughter labeling law.

The extreme right, openly anti-Moslem Party for Freedom leads the movement, which it took from an animal rights group called The Party for Animals. It now carries the anti-ritual slaughter banner as its own. If  Dutch Parliament passes the law, Moslems and Jews stand to be deprived of of religious rights.

Where’s the inhumanity? Jewish law takes an entirely green, humane view of animal rights. Animals, be it pets or working animals, must be fed before the owner himself sits down to eat. A working animal may not be overburdened. Ox and horses may not be yoked together, as the strength and pace of each specie are different and will cause the other to suffer. On Shabbat, animals may not be put to work, just as humans have the right to a day of rest. According to the laws of both  kashrut and halal, animals are quickly slaughtered  with razor-sharp, especially long knives. Done correctly, they die within seconds.

Juggled statistics. The Party for Freedom claims that every year, 2 million animals are slaughtered by religious law. But according to Jewish records, shechitah, or religious slaughter, accounts for only two thousand animals. Presumably halal slaughter accounts for more, but we found no source for actual numbers.

Traditional values reversed. Religious tolerance has been a hallmark of Dutch society since 1581, when Holland declared independence from Spain and proclaimed “some degree of liberty, particularly relating to religion.”  Indeed, according to the Jewish Historical Museum in Amsterdam, the first Ashkenazic Jew to settle in the Hague was a kosher butcher.

Given historical Dutch religious tolerance, the Party for Freedom’s cry against ritual slaughter sounds hypocritical. There’s no  great outcry against inhumane industrial animal farming and the way animals are transported  to  conventional markets.

Minorities relegated to second-class citizenship? Now the Jewish and Moslem minorities in Holland must fight for their right to eat as they see fit, or assume the financial burden of importing their meat. It’s clear that the proposed law is a legal means of harassing those communities. Are only majority religions to be allowed fresh, local food in Holland?  And Dutch Parliament should consider how much larger a carbon footprint Holland will create by obliging people to fly meat in, when local sources are already in place and operating.

More on ritual slaughter from Green Prophet:

:: European Jewish Press

:: JTA

: Halal Food Authority

Photo by Joost J. Bakker IJmuiden via Flickr.

Miriam also writes a food blog.


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10 thoughts on “Holland’s Proposed Ban on Ritual Slaughter Affects Jews and Moslems”

  1. Moses W says:

    To whoever is behind the “Australian animals abused by religious fanatics” comment:

    It’s funny that you mention Jews and Muslims as narcissistic fanatics, just because they slaughter animals in a different way. The first narcissistic fanatic that comes to my mind is neither a Jew or a Muslim, and was responsible for the slaughtering of millions of people that were different than him in the 1930’s and 40’s. This slaughter was in most cases performed without a prior stunning, apart from some cases in which it was needed for an experiment conducted by a non-Jew/non-Muslim scientist.

    It’s one thing to disagree with the way to prepare animals for consumption (which is in itself somewhat disturbing regardless of the way it’s done), and another to criticize people for preserving their centuries-old practices out of faith. If you have the guts, why not try and convince the clerics that they are wrong for preserving this practice, rather than to insult people in such a cowardly way?

  2. Australian animals abused by religious fanatics says:

    Animal and human abuse is the same in all languages except in the cover-up swill perpetrated by Islamic and Jewish fundies. It is high time that Islamists and Jews ceased making life torturous for defenceless non-humans just because they can. Narcissistic fanatics, sufficiently deluded in believing they are the superior species, are an impediment to the world’s moral progress.



    1. Your comment is not fair. The basic laws of animal rights and protection stem from monotheistic faiths, namely Judaism. It is not “fundies” who are fighting this legislation, but believers. People of faith whose slaughtering methods are more humane, and requiring no “cover-up” as you mention.

  3. Miriam Kresh says:

    Thomas, that’s pretty much what it looks like.

    Tinamarie, I’ll be posting about that in the next day.

  4. Miriam – there are movements underway to ban circumcision. News out of San Francisco – it’s on the ballot there.

  5. thomas says:

    for whatever it’s worth, i will add my twopence of info. my bro works as a production engineer in a large chicken slaughterhouse where animals are given a “shower” (read electroshock) prior to having their throats slit.

    in a discussion i have had with him about humane killing and animal rights (btw i am vegetarian myself, but my brother is not), he ADMITTED THAT the mercy/humane “shower” was somewhat hypocritical insofar pure animal rights were concerned and this because: giving the chicks an electroshock speeds up THEIR HEART pump and helps the blood drain faster after the throat slitting, thus achieving better economies of scale for the slaughterhouse.

    so, when the dutch are claiming animal rights vs. religious law of minorities (be they jews muslims buddhists, atheists you name it) i have reasons to suspect that they are not honest and animal rights is just a conventional, trendy argument.

    as simple as that.

  6. Miriam Kresh says:


    You imply that the post was written casually, from a perspective of distance. Let me enlighten you. Always, but especially in view of growing international antisemitism, what affects a Jewish community in one place becomes a concern for all Jewish communities. I can’t speak for Muslim communities(Arwa, Zaufishan, care to comment?) – but I believe it is the same. My post was written from a background of careful research and yes, personal concern.

    As my post states, the Dutch movement against ritual slaughter is spearheaded by Geert Wilder’s extreme-right, anti-Muslim Party for Freedom. Wilder attempted to force Muslim children into abandoning their religious practice – or go hungry during school hours – when in 2007, he objected to halal meat served at a public school in Amsterdam. “Muslims at our schools must adjust to Dutch norms and values and not the other way around,” he said. How tolerant, how traditionally Dutch is that?

    As for your comparison between Egypt’s attempt to contain swine flu and the concern underlying my post, please note Reuter’s report on Dutch destruction of 8800 chickens this month, to suppress an outbreak of avian flu.


    Dutch animal rights groups are not protesting that humans must, morally, submit to that danger for the sake of the chickens. No one in their right mind would.In Israel, as in other countries attempting to contain avian flu, many chickens have unfortunately had to be destroyed as well.

    However, the debate isn’t about animal rights per se.It’s about human rights. Civil rights, religious rights. Dutch rabbinic and Muslim authorities, and butchers from both groups, have been vocal and active in protesting the passing of the anti-ritual slaughter law. I wonder who would have an interest in “shutting them out of the debate.”

    My concern is that Holland, with its ancient and honorable tradition of tolerance, is joining Switzerland, Norway, Sweden, and New Zealand in making life difficult for Muslims and Jews, disguised as a campaign for animal rights. What will be the next logical steps in restricting the freedoms of minorities? Banning circumcision? And from there?

  7. Krenit says:

    Its not always so black and white, especially when viewing from a distance.

    The Dutch are indeed tolerant, with seemingly all aspects of society up for debate, all the time. Be aware that their famous tolerance stems from continual debate and a willingness to review and reconsider. In this specific case they could be putting their notion of animal welfare over privately held spiritual matters.

    What do Dutch kosher and halal butchers have to say, or have they been shut out this debate?

    A casual observer might be forgiven for thinking that the 2009 slaughter of swine in Egypt (however misguided) was to persecute a minority rather than the stated aim of reducing the spread of swine flu.

    Your hyperbole about returning to the dark ages seeks only to enflame passions rather than stimulate debate. Not very Dutch of you.

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