The European Jewish Congress has welcomed the Dutch Senate’s ratification of an agreement between the government and the Jewish and Muslim communities of the Netherlands which will protect religious freedom for kosher and halal slaughter while improving animal welfare. “This is a momentous agreement and we hope this will serve as a paradigm and precedent for all countries in Europe and the European Union,” Moshe Kantor, president of the European Jewish Congress, said. “This is a good compromise that allows freedom of religion as enshrined in the European Charter of Fundamental Rights and takes into consideration animal welfare which Jewish law sees as a priority.”
The European Jewish Congress vigorously opposed banning or curtailing Jewish religious slaughter in Holland and elsewhere in the EU. Last year in June, the Second Chamber of the Dutch parliament approved an outright ban on religious slaughter of animals. However, after much debate and lobbying by groups including the World Jewish Congress, the European Jewish Congress, and the Organisation of Jewish Communities in the Netherlands, the upper house, the Senate, rejected the bill. Deputy Minister for Agriculture and Environment Henk Bleker presented a compromise which led to the agreement signed last week and ratified on Tuesday.
The agreement stipulates that a qualified Netherlands Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority vet must be present in slaughterhouses during kosher and halal slaughter. It needs to be ensured that animals lose consciousness within 40 seconds of their throats being cut. After 40 seconds they must be stunned, which is prohibited under both Jewish and Islamic law.
“We can not rest on our laurels as all the time there are others who seek to harm our religious practices,” Kantor declared. “However, we express our gratitude to the Dutch government for demonstrating that a compromise can be found which takes into account many different viewpoints and we hope that this agreement will put an end to those who seek to curtail human rights. While the Jewish community is happy about the result, the Dutch sense of compromise and tolerance is the true victor in this episode.”