Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Dutch Legislators Infringe On Free Exercise of Religion By Banning Ritual Slaughter Practices

Dutch legislators have passed a measure that would ban the ritual slaughter of animals for food consumption. The measure would require that animals be first stunned before they are slaughtered. Under Jewish and Islamic doctrine, animals must be fully alert before they are slaughtered. Proponents claim that the ritual methods are cruel and should be banned.

So, while this affects 50,000 Jews in the Netherlands, the real focus is on the 1.2 million Muslims who follow Islamic dhabiha.
But the Islamic dhabiha and Jewish shechita methods of ritual slaughter require them to be fully conscious.

The legislation was proposed by an animal rights party with two MPs, which argued that failing to stun the animals subjected them to unnecessary pain.

But debate over the matter swiftly became a focus of animosity towards the Netherlands' 1.2 million-strong Muslim community. The country's Jewish population is comparatively small at 50,000.

Following months of debate a last minute concession was offered - the Muslim and Jewish communities will have a year to provide evidence that animals slaughtered by traditional methods do not experience greater pain than those that are stunned before they are killed.

However, observers say finding such proof will be virtually impossible.

The bill must still be approved by the upper house of parliament before it can become law.

Before Tuesday's vote, the head of the Party for the Animals, Marianne Thieme, denied the bill was an attack on religious minorities.

She argued the law was necessary because scientists agreed that animals suffered pain or fear if they were not stunned before slaughter, and because current regulations allowed exceptions for ritual slaughter.
Jewish and Muslim slaughtering practices are quite similar, and both require the use of a trained ritual slaughterer (shochet in Jewish practice) to slaughter the animal with compassion and with a single stroke of a razor-sharp knife according to strict procedures. For example, the shochet cannot press, pause, tear, pierce, or cover the animal being slaughtered. Stunning or other modern methods would render the ritual practices invalid because it would cause additional damage to the animal.

Once the animal has been slaughtered, the shochet examines the animal for additional diseases or lesions that would render the animal unkosher.

Far from being humane, these modern procedures (stunning by any number of means) are designed to maximize the number of animals slaughtered for the least cost. Jewish and Muslim slaughtering procedures are far more labor intensive and costly, in part because of the rate that meat from the slaughtered animals is deemed not to meet their respective religious standards.

Claims that Jewish and Muslim practitioners will have a year to show that their methods do not cause more harm to the animals will be all but impossible to prove; how exactly can anyone show that an animal suffers more or less pain or fear immediately preceding their slaughter. It's a bogus controversy and one that directly infringes on the religious freedoms of these communities.

No comments: