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Kosher Rules

The Dutch parliament moved last week to prohibit the ritual slaughter of animals, putting the notoriously tolerant Netherlands on a path to ban a practice key to both Jewish and Muslim observance

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A butcher shop in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. (Flickr/Bart van Damme)

It’s 5:30 in the morning on a late-June Monday, and Motty Rosenzweig, 45, has already sharpened his knives for another day’s work. The only kosher slaughterer, or shochet, in the Netherlands, he kills approximately 3,000 calves, sheep, and cows yearly for the kosher-observant population in this country of about 50,000 Jews, 6,000 of whom are estimated to be Orthodox. His employer, the Jewish Community of Amsterdam, rents a windowless space within a larger slaughterhouse in the west of the city. When Rosenzweig closes up shop in the afternoon, a halal slaughterer will take his place.

But Rosenzweig’s job, and that of his halal counterpart, are now on the line: Last week, the lower house of the parliament overwhelmingly voted to ban ritual slaughter, by a margin of 116 to 30. (The upper house still must approve the legislation before it becomes law.) A majority of Dutch voters say they support the ban, which will be more noticeable in the much larger Muslim community, which numbers more than a million.

On the eve of the vote, members of the Dutch parliament were invited to observe the ritual, an attempt by Rosenzweig’s bosses to show their opponents that their animals don’t suffer. Only one legislator turned up, from the tiny Christian Union party.

Marianne Thieme, leader of the country’s animal-rights party, had no interest in attending. “I don’t want subjective observations,” Thieme says. “I want scientific proof.” Her Party for Animals is small, with only two parliament members, but it managed to galvanize the anti-ritual slaughter on the grounds that it causes unnecessary suffering to animals. If the law goes into effect, it will require that all animals must be stunned, or anesthetized, before they’re slaughtered. Both the kosher laws governing slaughter, or Sh’hitah, and halal laws dictate that animals be fully conscious when killed. “Maybe theirs was the best way to slaughter 3,000 years ago, but not now,” says Thieme.

“It’s depressing,” says Binyomin Jacobs, chief rabbi of the Netherlands, pointing out that one of the first laws enacted by the Nazis in 1940 closed ritual slaughterhouses. (Seventy percent of Holland’s Jews were killed during World War II, including Rosenzweig’s grandfather, who was also a shochet.)

“Religion in a secular country is easy to attack,” says Ronnie Eisenmann, head of the board of the Jewish Community of Amsterdam. “If you say Jews and Muslims do medieval things, then of course people are against it.” And Muslim leaders agree. “Besides the direct and irreversible restriction of freedom of belief, the fate of two world religions is totally left to officials, scientists, veterinarians, and owners of slaughterhouses,” the Contact Committee for Muslims and Government, a liaison group, said in a statement.

The law, as passed, does include one potential loophole: If it can be proven that animals who are slaughtered by kosher or halal ritual feel no more pain than animals who are stunned, then ritual slaughter could continue. “But how can you prove that?” asks Jacobs. He said that kosher slaughter respects animals, not only during the kill, but before: Animals can’t be wounded while transported (or else the meat is unusable), and they go one by one to the slaughter (they’re not allowed to see the animal in front of them get killed).

Ritual slaughterers receive an extensive education, training for several years under a master and requiring certification. “Motty had 10 years of training before becoming a slaughterer,” says David Serphos, the former director of the Jewish Community of Amsterdam. “He studied for two years how to sharpen his knife before getting near a chicken.”

“The knife used is sharp and smooth so the cut itself does not cause any pain,” Rosenzweig says. “The blood pressure immediately drops, and in a few seconds the animal is unconscious.” He is proud of his family’s shochet roots in the Netherlands, but he already works several days a week in Belgium and France; he thinks his professional days in his hometown are numbered. “The feeling I get here is, ‘Do it our way or leave,’ ” he says.

In recent years, the Netherlands, like many European countries, has seen a major influx of Muslim immigrants, and this influx has at times led to tensions. But Thieme says that her party’s concern is for the well-being of animals, not against religion. “The freedom of religion is not unrestricted,” she says. Roos Vonk, a professor of psychology at Radboud University, recalls being a member of an animal rights group in the early 1980s; its members considered taking on ritual slaughter but didn’t dare. “It was impossible then to say anything against Muslims and minorities,” Vonk says. “The whole of Holland would roll over you. We didn’t want to appear racist. But that was before Pim Fortuyn”—the right-wing populist who rose to prominence a decade ago on his anti-Muslim positions. (He was murdered during the 2002 election campaign.)

In the week leading up to the ritual-slaughter vote, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte declared multiculturalism dead, his Cabinet announced plans to cut funding for programs aiding immigrants (a move that three-quarters of the Dutch say they support), and the popular anti-Muslim politician Geert Wilders was acquitted on charges of inciting racial hatred for comparing the Quran to Mein Kampf, among other things. The country once thought of as among the most liberal and tolerant in the world is now known for its increasingly conservative and populist mindset.

“I sympathize with anyone trying to make sense of the emotional state of this country’s population,” says Tom Eijsbouts, professor of law at the University of Amsterdam and the University of Leiden. “People seek certainty in the extremes.” He views the ritual-slaughter ban as a misguided attempt by the Dutch public to deal with its discomfort over the mass production of animals. “It seems to me that the bad feelings have been diverted to a non-essential aesthetic issue of slaughter without stunning,” he says. And the Netherlands is not alone; Norway, Sweden, Luxembourg, and Switzerland have banned ritual slaughter, too.

Marcus Butchers, the only kosher butcher shop in Amsterdam, is located in the south of the city. It’s a stone’s throw from the house on Merwedeplein where Anne Frank and her family lived before they went into hiding. The store’s manager, Luuk Koole, hopes that the ban won’t pass the senate and become law. If it does, he says he’ll have no choice but to start importing meat. “I’m not so afraid for business,” he says, “but our prices will go up if we have to import.”

A customer, Rabbi Chaim Rodrigues Pereira, was buying kosher sausage and veal for Shabbat. “I don’t think it’s anti-Semitism,” he says of the ban. (He chalks it up to a modern emphasis on animal welfare, which he supports.) “But if they tell us we may not slaughter kosher, they know we’ll go to Belgium, where they’ll have to slaughter more. They want civility in Holland but they don’t care if they do it in Belgium or France.”

If there is an upside to the slaughter saga, it’s that opposition to the ban has brought the Jewish and Muslim communities closer together. “Working together may be a big word, but we are on the same side,” says Ronnie Eisenmann. “In a secular society, the Jewish community has more in common with Muslims than the Dutch—family, special education, circumcision, ritual slaughter. We’re both more conservative.”

Lauren Comiteau has been reporting from the Netherlands for Time, CBS Radio, the CBC, and the Chicago Tribune, among other publications, others since 1996.

, July 11: Anne Frank and her family lived on Merwedeplein before they went into hiding. This error has been corrected.

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Carl says:

A disgrace. I wonder how many of these Dutch legislators are living in homes once occupied by Jews before the Nazis and their Danish collaborators murdered them.

Barry says:

This is extremely shortsighted.

In the war against the Muslim scum, we’re ALL going to have to make sacrifices. Jews face a far far larger menace from the bloodthirsty genocidal Muslims, than worries about higher meat prices. Any action taken to hurt the Muslims should be supported.

Fighting Islam, like fighting Nazism, will require sacrifices from EVERYONE.

And make no mistake: the satanic Mohammedans of Europe are far far more wicked than the Nazis.

Fred says:

Do they have any idea that they pollute the body they are killing, when they use unnecessary anaesthetic? The extra chemicals in the body of the animal are then ingested by the human. How smart is that? Organic is the way, and it IS sustainable. But not killing Kosher on the grounds of “not humane enough” when the answer is chemicals to numb the pain, which is quick and not very much according to the ritual slaughterers? Come on people, it would be better to stop curing the meat with salt so Jews don’t end up with such high rates of hypertension and heart disease. Let’s major in the majors here…

Izzy says:

If someone could reliably demonstrate that vegetables feel pain when harvested and cooked or even worse eaten whilst raw, then I wonder what all these loons would eat.

They must feel that G-d is some kind of being that insists that we all starve. We were made to all live a untenable existance with all the rules against us. Our Torah tells us the opposite.

As for Barry, How do you really feel?

Matt says:

You know, I suspect it was that Nazi smear which turned the vote so decisivelyagainst you. How dare you suggest that people opposed to your barbaric ritual are some kind of latter day Nazis. How dare you.

Phil says:

Matt: how dare you call our 3,000-year-old ritual barbaric. How dare you.

Judith M. Rood says:

Herman Wouk On Religious Freedom. [“This is My God” NY: Doubleday, 1959, 40-41.

(40) Here, since we have referred to both Hebrew and American law, a point of importance arises, and we may as well meet it. Those who find use or pleasure in baiting the Jews have asked in every generation, how can they be loyal both to their religious law and the law of the land in which they live? Which loyalty is overriding?

The answer is that in Jewish doctrine both laws are one law. The loyalty is single. When the Jewish commonwealth fell two thousand years ago and its civil legislation ceased to be a reality, the Talmud sages laid down the rule for Jews in all the ages of exile: dino d’malkuto dino, “the law of the land is our law.” Into the vacuum left by the fall of the state, steps the state which is the home of a Jew, and which gives him a civic identity. Therefore the traditional Jew, beyond his civic sense, is obliged by his (41) religion to be a law abider; a Frenchman, if born in France; an Israeli, if in Israel; an American, if in America. If a state decrees that Jews may not worship their God, they fight such decreees, and they have often died fighting for them. That is the one point in which a conflict could exist. It could exist equally, I believe, for Christians or Moslems put under such a decree.

Fact of the matter is that both Judaism and Islam are not that far away from some parallel religions. Christians have always thought that bad things will happen due to lack of faith. That faith, being Christianity, fought Muslims and Jews in the Crusades. King Cyrus the Great offered a home to the Jews, where for hundreds of years they lived side by side. An affront to Islam, they want to be treated fairly by the xenophobic Dutch. The Dutch, at present, are politically motivated to rid themselves of foreign “parasites” to their pristine Christian world.

Daniel says:

Maybe the Jews of the Netherlands should move en-mass to Israel or the United States? Oh, wait a minute, there is a law pending in San Francisco to ban circumcision. Oh my, there is antisemitism still in the world!

philip mann says:

We are judged by our actions and the company we keep. The nazis did it,and the animal welfare group.

It sounds like material from the Rowan Atkinson routine, ` Tobi`. ` Oooh,you two will have so much to talk about.`

Barry says:

“Fact of the matter is that both Judaism and Islam are not that far away from some parallel religions.”

WHAT!!??!!!! Judaism is monotheistic. Contemporary Islam worships the man Mohammed. (a particularly wicked man – a war criminal, a pedophile, and an illiterate.)

“King Cyrus the Great offered a home to the Jews, where for hundreds of years they lived side by side.”

Are you confused? Cyrus was part of the glorious Persian culture – one of the many civilization that the Mohammedans destroyed. If anything, Cyrus is a reminder of the wickedness of the Shari’ah. All the apologists for the satanic Quran who say “we have to understand the context” need to be reminded of the context. A tolerant Middle East destroyed by the wicked followers of Mohammed.

“The Dutch, at present, are politically motivated to rid themselves of foreign “parasites” to their pristine Christian world.”

WOW! I don’t even know where to begin. Let’s compare, shall we? The beast-like “Palestinians” have said that in their new Kaliphate, no Jews will be allowed to live. No kufr; just subhuman Muslims as far as the eye can see.

By contrast, the Dutch GENEROUSLY invited in the beasts. It allowed their colonies to grow unabated, as the lazy Muslims collected welfare. The Dutch have bent over backwards to allow the satanic teachings of Shari’ah to fester. And for that they are called selfish? As racial purists? You’ve got to be kidding.

When there is a wide array of churches and synagogues in Mecca and Medina – and the Muslims repay the trillions in reparations they owe to victims of their 1400 year Jihad – then the Muslims will have the moral authority to whine about how they are treated by the Dutch. I mean seriously? Muslims whining about treatment of religious minorities? Are you kidding?

Kurt says:

Intolerance breeds contempt. Contempt breeds suffering. Suffering breeds hatred. Hatred breeds death. I am not a religious man; however, balance must be maintained. The key to balance is tolerance. Things in the Netherlands are severely out of balance. Barry, you ought to be ashamed of yourself. Your anti-Muslim rantings are like those of the Nazis. Jews, Muslims, and Christians are not three separate spheres. We are part of the same whole.

If the Dutch succeed in casting out the Jews once more, it shall be to their detriment and misery. From 400 C.E. to 1945, the Jews were cast out of one European country after another. After a few generations, they were always begged to return. The Muslim population outside of the Middle East and North Africa is growing because the moderate Muslims who oppose extremism are leaving. They are the intelligensia of Islam. They are tired of supporting hate, yet their departure leaves a vacuum, and nature abhores a vacuum.

Marina says:

I am against banning both kosher and halal slaughter….First of all I like food that jews and muslims eat. They have a good food.
There is no reason to ban their food.

Tariq says:

Hey Barry: Mind your language and do some research about Muslims before posting. Muslims too believe in one God.

Robert says:

It is a pity that so few Dutch (2-5 %)watch German TV which is fully available to them on cable (more than 80 % of the country has cable). The film Emmas Glück (Emma’s Bliss)with Jördis Triebel as the feisty Emma Struwe has run at least four times since it’s release in 2007; it shows the humain side of the slaughter. It may change your mind, even if you’re an animal lover such as I am. Especially towards the end of the film you will understand what a “coup de grâce” means.
The author of the article is right about Merwedeplein, but Anne Frank’s real drama took place at another place: Prinsengracht which is at least a 45 minute walk away of the place he mentions.
The Ducth government is wrong with this law and it moves the problem to another place, not only to imports from Belgium or France, but to the bathrooms of appartment buildings in Holland as such is the case in France (so they say…)The fact that the ritual slaughter was organized in a slaughterhouse is the best thing authorities can do.
But populism makes you win elections. In Holland Mr. Geert Wilders runs the country from behind the scenes with an embarrased caretaker in the form of Prime Minister Rutte.

Barry says:

Tariq – Muslims used to be monotheistic. That’s no longer true.

American Muslims ignore insults to the Prophet Joseph Smith. They ignore insults to Jesus and God.

But the moment someone draws a cartoon of Mohammed – blood in the streets; embassies burnt down; kufr slaughtered.

If you want us to really believe that Muslims worship the One True G-d, then start showing it. Claiming you believe in Him, while calling yourself to prayer with bullshit about the satanic Rassullah (god incarnate, ch’v) is disgusting.

Yaakov Hillel says:

I was surprised to read that one of the writers wrote that the Homosexual Capital of the world is considering banning circumcision. This seems very logical. When not long ago reading in a medical journal circumcised men have one tenth the possibility of contracting Aids than uncircumcised men. This way Sanfancisco will get rid of most its Homosexuals and their expensive up keep. Good thinking.

It should be fairly easy to determine via PET scanning or other techniques the degree to which animals suffer when they are slaughtered according to Jewish, Islamic, or other ritual.

If it turns out that the animal advocates are right, Jews and Muslims et al. should simply become vegetarians.

Matthew says:

Think its wonderful that the Dutch are finally standing up for their culture. Jews who want to continue a religious lifestyle are welcome to move to Israel, where they belong.

William says:

Interesting that Holland and the other countries which have outlawed ritual slaughter, do not outlaw hunting, even hunting for sport and not for food. Hunting is the most painful way for an animal to be killed, especially when not killed with the first ‘shot’ , ‘arrow, or other means. If pain to animals is the motivating force, why nothing about hunting, which is the province of the ‘aristocracy’ and now the ‘common man’? Obviously in is anti-semitism.

The fact that the legislators refused to visit a kosher slaughterhouse or review the scientific studies which show that ritual slaughter does not inflict undue pain, is again proof that anti-semitism does not die easily in Europe.

The Holocaust gave us Jews a 60 year reprieve. It is apparently again time for anti semitism to rear its evil head in Europe.

This article makes the false claim that banning ritual slaughter is an affront to freedom of belief. This is absurd. One is free to believe what one wishes. This doesn’t mean that you are free to act on your beliefs. This is what a democratic and free society mean. Choices. You may believe whatever you wish and fight within the system for it. But your belief does not print you an automatic licence any more than a blind man’s belief that he has sonar allows him to drive on public streets. Sorry.
If Jewish people wish to continue ritual animal slaughter, why not get an EEG and prove that the animal suffers no more than in a modern abattoir? Perhaps you can prove the Kosher method is more humane than commercial ones and all people will have to eat Kosher meat. But if it is not, then you who wish to keep kosher will have choices to make. Like everyone else everywhere else.

I believe that it is my right to smoke in bars in Canada. The government disagrees. Just for one example. My belief does not supersede law. Why should yours?

Tariq says:

Barry: I would have explained you that you are wrong. But your dirty and abusive language clearly shows that you are not ready for the dialogue but want to get some frustration out that you’ve probably collected through media and false propogandas. So, trying to explain you will be like teaching medicine to a Moron, who can do nothing but use it in harmful manner.

Is there much hunting in the Netherlands? It is not a country with much in the way of wilderness areas?

The Netherlands seems to be working hard to discourage hunting.

There are no areas in which hunting is freely available to everyone.

No commercial based hunting is possible in the Netherlands.

Ron Lewenberg says:

Let me see if I understand this. The An Animal Rights Party gets 116 to 30 vote. The Christian Democratic Appeal, Reformed Political Party (Protestants) opposed the bill and were joined by some members of the Labour Party and the PVV (Freedom PArty lead by Wilders)
Yet Ms. Comiteau decides to blame (drum role) the PVV. The ruling VVD supported the ban as did all parties on the left, but screaming Wilders Wilders is what is expected.

Of course anyone who considers a gay atheiest like Fortyn to be a
right-wing populist is a poor propogandist.

There aren’t 50,000 Jews in Holland but 30,000.

Dude, please tell me that youre going to write a lot more. I notice you havent written an additional weblog for a while (Im just catching up myself). Your blog is just too important to be missed. Youve got so considerably to say, such knowledge about this subject it could be a shame to see this weblog disappear. The world wide web wants you, man!

I’ve said that least 3027280 times. The problem this like that is they are just too compilcated for the average bird, if you know what I mean

It’s hard to find knowledgeable people on this topic however you sound like you know what you’re talking about! Thanks

I believe that it is my right to smoke in bars in Canada. The government disagrees. Just for one example. My belief does not supersede law. Why should yours? Of course anyone who considers a gay atheiest like Fortyn to be a right-wing populist is a poor propogandist.


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Kosher Rules

The Dutch parliament moved last week to prohibit the ritual slaughter of animals, putting the notoriously tolerant Netherlands on a path to ban a practice key to both Jewish and Muslim observance

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