Wednesday, 29 June 2011
Dutch to ban halal and kosher animal slaughter
The fight has made for some strange bedfellows. The campaign against the bill has seen an unprecedented unification of the country's Muslim and Jewish populations, who both say the bill puts animal rights ahead of human rights. On the other side stands an unusual pairing of animal rights activists and the country's anti-Islamic far right.
The controversy over the bill, which came despite its widespread support in the parliament, persuaded the Dutch government to promise that no ban would go forward without the approval of the Senate (an approval not legally necessary in this case). They also inserted a provision which would allow religious groups to apply for a permit to kill animals without stunning them first. But this would only be granted if they can prove that the animals do not suffer more than in ordinary killing. But legal experts say this would be nearly impossible for the halal and kosher butchers to prove, and the burden of proof is on them. Agricultural bodies such as the British Farm Animal Welfare Council have concluded that halal and kosher killing causes severe suffering to animals.
Though the bill was sponsored by the Animal Rights Party, it received quick and enthusiastic support from Geert Wilders’s far right Freedom Party. This has led many to suspect that the widespread support for the bill has less to do with animal rights than with the anti-Islam climate currently pervading in the country. The Freedom Party's huge success in last year's election forced the governing centre-right party to take them on as a coalition partner, taking up some of their main issues such as a ban on the Islamic veil and a limit to the number of "non-Western" immigrants allowed to come into the country.
These suspicions were only stoked by the fact that the concession to add the permit for religious groups was only made after the parliament was reminded that it is not only Muslims who will be unable to eat meat in their religiously-proscribed way, it is also Jews. There is a perception that if the ban only applied to halal killing no such permit exception would have been added. Of course, since halal and kosher slaughter are essentially the same thing with different names, any ban would have to apply to both.
The country has seen a turn to the right politically and analysts say much of this is due to the increasing tensions between Dutch secular society and the religious Muslim immigrants who have moved to the country in the past decades and not assimilated.
It's unknown how the senate will vote on the issue, but it would be surprising if they oppose it. Meanwhile, the Animal Rights Party has introduced a new bill that would end the permit system for religious groups, and this bill reportedly has large support. Even if the permit system goes through, it seems unclear or even unlikely that it will actually allow Jews and Muslims to continue ritual slaughter.