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Holland Bans Kosher, Halal Slaughter

Law arguably contradicts humane, moral considerations

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A kosher butcher knife.(PhotoMatti/Flickr)

After today’s vote, all animals butchered in Holland must be stunned before being killed, in violation of both Jewish and Muslim practice. Indeed, the country’s Jewish and Muslim communities had joined forces to oppose the bill, which was proposed by the small Animal Rights Party: The chief Dutch rabbi noted that kosher butcheries were closed soon after the Nazi occupation of Holland, and Dutch Muslims cast the law as of a piece with the rising power of the xenophobic, anti-Muslim Dutch right, as personified by the charismatic politician Geert Wilders. Britain’s chief rabbi also vocally opposed the law, which is more draconian than the European Union’s ban on the slaughtering of non-stunned animals, which provides religious exemptions.

In a fabulous essay today, popular Asia Times columnist Spengler–who in person, I’m told, bears a more than passing resemblance to frequent Tablet Magazine contributor David P. Goldman—counts the ways in which this new law is bad:

• As Goldman explained in Tablet, kosher slaughter, in which an extremely sharp (and sanctified) blade wielded by a skilled butcher slices several crucial arteries at once in order to quickly eliminate the animal’s life (and therefore pain), is thought to be the most humane method there is, and was designed to be just that.

• Banning this type of slaughter is hypocritical, given that hunting and eating of wild game, which is far crueler to animals, is permitted.

• The law shames the memories of Holland’s historic tolerance to Jews—it was a haven for many who fled the Inquisition—and of the three-quarters of Dutch Jews who died in the Holocaust.

• The law is of course a blow to observant Dutch Jews. But really, it is properly seen as an assault on the general moral fiber, Spengler argues:

Those who reject religious arguments—as do the majority of today’s European—should nonetheless ask by what measure they gauge the value of animal suffering. Jews observe the ancient dietary laws because they believe that God asked them to do so. Whether or not the Hebrew Bible was given to Moses on Mount Sinai by God, the rules it set forth for kindness towards animals had no precedent in human affairs. And the influence upon ethics of this innovation cannot be overstated. If we must respect animal life—not only physical suffering, but even the emotional sensibility of animals—then we must respect human life and dignity all the more.

Dutch Parliament Votes to Ban Ritual Slaughter of Animals [Telegraph]
Poisoning the Well of Animal Welfare [Asia Times]
Related: Kosher by Design [Tablet Magazine]

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There is an interesting passage in The Magic Mountain (and it’s been a while), where Naphta, the born-Jewish Jesuit reflects on memories of his father, a butcher. If I remember, his slant is that kosher practice does not obscure the fact that it is in fact a sacrifice, not something to be taken lightly, but something grave and profound. Naphta is also the religious extremist in the novel, so I’m not sure what Mann thought of it.

Frayed Knot says:

This and the proposed ban on circumcision in San Francisco are exactly why there is a need for Israel. In the end, Jews living in other countries who seek to practice their religion are beholden to the goodwill and acceptance of the non-Jewish majorities. As we can see, there’s no guarantee how long that will last, no matter how “tolerant” or “progressive” said societies claim to be.

Reuvain says:

Its time for Jews in the US to boycott Holland, maybe we need demonstrations at KLM to send a message.

Can someone please explain how “stunning” is more humane than instantaneous severing of the carotid artery? “Stunning” is performed by electrocuting the animal with a large taser. Sometimes several shocks must be administered before the animal loses consciousness and the process can take several minutes. What is “humane” about this?

Marcel Loewenberg says:

The law against the slaughtering of non-stunned animals will not come into effect after this vote. It has to be approved by the first house of representatives and then by the Dutch cabinet.

Tessa Broad says:

It is time you all stopped living in the dark ages and end the misery for these poor animals. You should all be ashamed of yourselves!

Tessa Broad says:

I have nothing against Jewish people apart from the fact that you end the life of an animal in such a cruel prolonged way. All we hear in the UK is people screaming about their human rights, their religious rights and we are sick of it. We are a Christian Country and the thought of eating an animal that has been despatched in this way makes my stomach turn. Added to this if an animal is stressed during slaughter, its meat is tough. We have moved on from the days of Moses, we have progressed, so why do you live in the past when the scriptures in the bible are not relevant to today’s World.
You are blinkered to the fact that there are some people who find the thought of slitting an animal’s throat as abhorrent and cruel. Really, wake up, those scriptures are nonsense and you know it!
The Dutch are right as are those brave Countries that have imposed a ban, wake up to reality and live you lives for each other and not some invented fable that was put in place to control the masses.

We are a Christian country and we are sick of people screaming about their religious rights!

Hey, Tessa, for starters, read the article by David Goldman. Kosher slaughter originated as a humane way of dispatching animals, and, according to an expert in animal behavior, in fact satisfies that criterion.

Second, please take your utterly baseless moral indignation elsewhere until you repatriate all non-indigenous Australians back to England and Ireland and give the continent back to the Aborigines you stole it from, remove your troops from Ireland, give the Malvinas islands–that’s Falklands to you–back to the Argentinians you stole it from, give Gibralter back to its rightful owner, Spain, free all the Irish political prisoners in your jails, evacuate Bermuda, another stolen possession of yours, get out of the Virgin Isles, and Canada, for that matter, and pay restitution for the 200-year genocide you perpetrated on the colonial world.

After that, we’ll talk.

Thanks for drawing attention to this disappointing news.

@ Marc, one note of contention. Hunting and eating wild game is not necessarily more cruel than kosher slaughter. Hunting CAN be cruel (would that it were less often so!), but your post implies that it is ALWAYS “far crueler” than kosher slaughter. (As you know, plenty of videos circulating on the web in recent years showcase kosher slaughter gone awry.) Still, it’s true that too many hunters treat their pursuit as “blood sport” rather than an opportunity to engage mortality and the outdoors with respect and profound awareness. Even those of us with the best intentions can “cripple” or “wound” an animal, and those hunters or fishermen who attempt to downplay this reality are being disingenuous. That said, I have a lot more respect for hunters and fishermen who have taken responsibility for the meat on their plate than I do for those who eat animals they’re personally unwilling to kill. That seems deeply wrong to me.

Anyway, a long-winded, nit-picky, somewhat defensive aside for your Wednesday morning. ;)

JCarpenter says:

Wow—“we are a Christian country” from a Brit(?) who is remarking on a policy in the Netherlands. Aside from royal weddings, when pray tell do Brits or Dutch enter a house of worship? Remark leaves me as stunned as a goat in a slaughterhouse.

invisible_hand says:

the resistance to stunning animals in slaughtering is not actually that big of a halakhic roadblock. this is hardly an anti-semitic (in the broader sense) statue, as it has nothing to do with jewish ritual itself. rather, it has identified a more humane method of slaughter than the ones currently practiced by jewish and muslim ritual slaughterers. the kind of folk myth that kosher slaughter is the most humane around is not based in fact. there are studies showing that animals do feel some pain even in that way, so the argument for stunning is compelling, even (especially!) in a halakhic discussion.

Mark says:

invisible_hand comments: “there are studies showing that animals do feel some pain even in that way”

There is only one study…that of NZ’s Massey University, completely discredited by Temple Grandin. Further the Professorial sponsor/supervisor (Mellor) of that study receives substantial research funding from the NZ ministry of agriculture and is considered to produce politically motivated science.

hktony says:

All this because of Islam and Halal not because of kosher. The issue is always the same. Islam demands it’s way on others. Disagree and you get bombs, beheadings,sharia, gay killings ect. Let me ask you when did you see a jew behead a muslim?? A jew blow up or crash planes??? A jew win noble prize for science??? A jew develop new technologies??? I sick of islam. So holland stops the killing of animals usoing halal and kosher practices. lets see who create problems for the country as a result of this. Still don’t know. Shall we just take a leap of faith and say jews will plant bombs, demonstrate and cry foul. No it probably won’t be the jews. Don’t ban halal ban muslims.

Tessa Broad says:


I agree with your point regarding muslims, this country is not going to cope with this for much longer. And to all those having a go at me, I agree with a great deal of what you are saying ( I am married to an Irish guy) and fully understand the Irish anger. I have nothing against Jews at all, the opposite I admire the fact that you look after each other and your families are strong, I just don’t like the thought of cutting the throat of animals.

With regard to my Countries history, I hang my head in shame. So let’s talk to each other with respect please.



Do you eat meat at all?

Jaybird says:

This legislation is about the manner in which animals are killed for human consumption. It is about what is considered acceptable treatment for animals. Period.

Any cult (which is what all religions are, particularly in their most fundamentalist/orthodox forms) whatsoever that still insists its members live by norms written up thousands of years ago by ignorant goat-roping males (claiming that hoary old, and shockingly false “dominion over animals”, claiming to speak for their invisble sky-buddy, and making all sorts of ridiculous “sacred laws” in the context of the scarcity of a desert environment), devoid of science, technology or secular reasoning, is not a cult that particularly deserves to be tolerated, much less catered to, especially in the 21st century and in a world where science has revealed so much about animal intelligence and animals’ emotional capacity.

If the manner in which animals are processed into meat for human consumption in certain countries is regulated in such a way as to assuage the consciences of people who both continue to consume animals and operate by means of some semblance of reason and science (i.e. most thinking people) bothers some assorted members of such backward cults, and, if in fact that regulation renders cult members with the feeling that they are somehow otherwise unwanted or unable to cope, no one is holding a gun to their head forbidding them to emigrate to a country more tolerant of, and welcoming to, their cruel, ignorant, antidiluvian and peculiar rituals.

And certainly no one is forbidding them from exploring the possibility of embracing vegetarianism. Animal protein is hardly a necessity for good health. It is merely conenient and relatively inexpensive.

I think that banning kosher slaghtering is shameful! At the time of the Nazi Holocaust the Queen and Her Government stood by the Jewish People. But now times have changed…


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Holland Bans Kosher, Halal Slaughter

Law arguably contradicts humane, moral considerations

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