Animal Welfare or Veiled Racism?
A majority of the Dutch parliament is in support of a law that would ban ritual slaughter of food animals for animal welfare reasons. Both Kosher and Halal slaughtering methods require that an animal be bled to death without being stunned first. Most livestock animals are stunned with a device such as a captive bolt gun that renders the animal senseless before it is killed.
Groups advocating for animal welfare in Europe support the ban because they say that killing an animal without stunning it first is cruel.
Jewish and Islamic groups make the argument that there is no scientific basis for the conclusion that ritual slaughter is more cruel than the standard European method of stunning before slaughter. They say that this is an infringement on their rights to practice their religion, while proponents of the bill say that the welfare of animals trumps religious practices.
Bills like this one bring together an interesting coalition of those who see ritual slaughter as “cruel and barbaric” with those who see the situation as an opportunity to defame religious and ethnic minorities and immigrants. Right-wing anti-immigration groups are in support of the ban and it’s hard to believe their real concern is for the feelings of livestock.
When debating an issue that involves religion, immigration, and animal welfare the vitriol and hyperbole reach a fever pitch very early in the conversation. Commentators have made two high profile comparisons to Nazi Germany, one going so far as to say that labeling Kosher meat amounts to a yellow star on food.
The idea that slaughter is ever “humane” or kind is and has always been a myth. Slaughter is slaughter; flesh is flesh. Labeling one kind of slaughter as humane and another as barbaric only serves to appease the consciences of some meat eaters. It doesn’t help the animals; it simply gives an empty sense of moral superiority to some people and allows them to vilify others.
Jewish and Muslim groups in Holland are right to say that banning ritual slaughter is religious discrimination. Additionally the ban would be completely pointless to the animals killed.
At best the advocates of this ban are misguided in their belief that banning ritual slaughter will mean less misery for the animals killed, at worst they’re pushing a thinly-veiled racist agenda that uses concern for animals as a tool to paint immigrants and religious minorities as cold-hearted and bloodthirsty.
If the Dutch parliament really wants to end animal suffering they would work to end all animal agriculture. The only real way to improve the lives of animals is to end their exploitation as a whole. But no politician would ever go that far.
Islamophobia and antisemitism aren’t an acceptable alternative to meaningful animal rights reform. Selectively banning some kinds of slaughter on the basis of animal welfare only reveals how little politicians know about animal agriculture and how little they care about religious tolerance.