Netherland vote to ban ritual slaughter slammed by European Jewish leaders

European Jewish groups slammed a decision by the lower house of the Dutch parliament to ban the ritual slaughter of animals, with one threatening to take legal action.

European Jewish Congress President Moshe Kantor said in a statement issued Tuesday that his organization could take legal action to prevent the ban, saying that it violates Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights, the right to freedom of religion.

“We cannot let such a blatantly discriminatory law stand without fighting it, especially as it stands contrary to European standards and freedoms,” Kantor said.

“This is a dark day for the Jewish community. This could serve as a terrible precedent for other parts of Europe and tells the Jews that they and their customs are no longer welcome.”

Under the bill passed Tuesday, animals are required to be stunned before slaughter. Both Jewish and Muslim ritual slaughter must be performed while the animal is fully conscious.

The upper house still must approve the measure, which is being protested by Holland’s Jewish and Muslim communities as an attack on their religious freedom. Some 40,000 Jews and about 1 million Muslims live in the country.

Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt, the president of the Conference of European Rabbis, called the ban an outrage that would prevent Jews from living a Jewish life in the Netherlands.

“We have passed the stage of arguing the nuances of intention of anti-Semitism,” Goldschmidt said. “The practical effects of this bill mean that Jews are no longer welcome in the Netherlands. This has not happened for 70 years.”

He added, “The Netherlands has thrown away centuries of liberalism, human rights, welcome and tolerance for Jews. We will not rest until this discriminatory, intolerant and hateful bill is thrown out.”

The Anti-Defamation League also condemned the Dutch vote.

“Dutch Jews must not be put to the choice of violating a central tenet of Judaism, foregoing fresh meat or emigrating,” said Abraham Foxman, the ADL’s national director. “We call upon the Dutch Senate to prevent this action from leading to a clear violation of religious freedom that has a disproportionate impact on the Jewish community.”

The bill was put forward by the Animal Rights Party, which claims that stunning before slaughter causes less pain to the animal.

The Jewish and Muslim communities have a year to prove otherwise or the law goes into effect.

The European Union requires animals to be stunned before slaughter, but makes exceptions for religiously mandated ritual slaughter, in Judaism known as schechitah. Nevertheless, ritual slaughter is banned in Luxembourg, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland.

Andy Altman-Ohr

Andy Altman-Ohr was J.’s managing editor and Hardly Strictly Bagels columnist until he retired in 2016 to travel and live abroad. He and his wife have a home base in Mexico, where he continues his dalliance with Jewish journalism.