Jewish and Muslim groups on Wednesday condemned the Dutch parliament for okaying a bill that would ban ritual slaughter practiced by both religions.
The European Jewish Congress said the bill, which passed the lower house on Tuesday by a majority of 116 to 30, was a violation of human rights, and that it would consider challenging its legality in court.
“This law stands in direct opposition to Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights, namely the right to freedom of religion,” EJC President Moshe Kantor said. “We are now looking into the possibility of fighting this discriminatory law at the European level before it reaches the Dutch Senate for a vote to make it law.”
The proposal introduced by the Animal Rights Party would require the stunning of livestock before their slaughter – a process it claims is more humane – effectively making the preparation of meat according to Jewish and Muslin custom illegal.
Kantor called the proposal “blatantly discriminatory” against the country’s Jewish community of 40,000, saying it sent the message that “Jews and their customs are no longer welcome.”
The Conference of European Rabbis said the Dutch decision smacked of anti-Semitism.
“We have passed the stage of arguing the nuances of intention of anti-Semitism,” said newly elected Conference of European Rabbis president Pinchas Goldschmidt. “The practical effects of this bill mean that Jews are no longer welcome in the Netherlands. This has not happened for 70 years.”
Jewish communities in nearby countries followed developments with concern, fearing similar proposals might be introduced in their legislatures.
“It is a sad day for religious freedom in Europe when legislation is passed based on flawed, unsubstantiated science, merely to appease an ill-informed animal welfare lobby,” Shechita UK chairman Henry Grunwald said. “The suggestion that shechita is anything but a humane method of slaughtering animals for food is offensive and unsound.
“We will continue to offer our support to the Jewish community of the Netherlands in the hope that common sense will prevail as this bill moves closer to becoming law. Make no mistake, the work of Shechita UK becomes more urgent and vital by the day.”
Muslim groups also rallied against the bill, saying it was rooted in political discrimination against the country’s 1 million Muslims.
“There was no reason for passing this law,” Imam Mahmut of the El Tawheed Mosque in Amsterdam was quoted by Reuters as saying. “This is a political decision. Who has the authority to determine whether the way of killing animals is good or not? Their way of killing the animal is not good either. The killing takes longer, and the animal suffers more.”
Animal rights groups claim the time-old ritual is unnecessarily cruel and can be replaced by more humane methods. A similar ban already exists in Scandinavia and New Zealand.