By Miriam Kresh
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.