Humane Animal Slaughter Law Angers Dutch Religious Communities

The Dutch Parliament will vote Tuesday on a law that could create a rift between its animal rights community and Muslim and Jewish minorities.  The law would prescribe humane slaughter for all animals, regardless of ritual conventions, essentially eliminating kosher and halal slaughter.  Muslim and Jewish communities are understandably upset, and see the move as a sign of religious intolerance, but the animal rights activists who proposed the legislation see it as an extension of the Netherlands’ progressive ethical legislation.  The issue is complicated by the fact that the bill was sponsored by a tiny animal rights party, which only has two seats in the legislature.  It’s being supported, however, by the Liberal and Labour parties.

According to the New York Times, the Jewish community is better organized than Holland’s Muslims in their opposition to the bill.  They see their rights as a religious minority as threatened in the Netherlands’ increasingly secular society.  And although the lawmakers made a concession to religious groups by saying that if they could prove that their slaughter practices cause no more pain than industrial slaughtering, they can have a license for five years.  But although the animal rights activists are citing scientific evidence that stunning animals before killing them reduces their suffering, it’s hard to imagine how Jewish and Muslim butchers would go about proving this.

“This is not about animal rights,” Joe M. Regenstein of Cornell University told the NYT. “It’s an invitation to Jews and Muslims to leave.”  He added that well-practiced kosher and halal slaughter can be as humane as the proposed nonreligious standards.

Marianne Thieme, one of the bill’s supporters, says that religious objections should be set aside to protect the animals.  There is, she said, “worldwide consensus among scientists that animals suffer terrible if they are not first stunned before slaughter.”  She compared the struggle to women’s rights.  The Netherlands is notorious for its lawmakers’ demands to ban headscarves and veils for Muslim women.  ”Here in our society we no longer accept that animals must suffer,” said Thieme.  ”We saw the same thing with women’s rights.”

But others are saying that the animal rights party – and the Dutch Parliament as a whole – have not given consideration to how kosher and halal butchers can preserve their ritual slaughter while still minimizing pain.  According to the Financial Times, “kosher slaughterers say their rules are intended precisely to prevent suffering.”  And some Muslim halal butchers have attempted Europe-wide conferences on improving halal standards.  And as an op-ed writer for a Dutch newspaper pointed out, hunting is legal in the Netherlands, despite the fact that it also inflicts significant pain on animals.

If this law passes, it will send a clear message to the Jewish and Muslim communities in the Netherlands, but not one about animal rights.  If the Dutch care about preserving religious minorities’ freedoms, they will make more of an effort to investigate humane kosher and halal slaughtering methods, and take into consideration the fact that these methods of slaughter are integral parts of the two religious traditions.

Photo from Wikimedia Commons.


antonia maestre
antonia maestre6 years ago

"Can't shake the devil's hand and say you're only kidding."

Annmari Lundin
Annmari Lundin6 years ago

Oh, well, here we go again! Freedom of religion means the right to discriminate against whomever you don't like, the right to bully, the right to torture animals, the right to shut women off from society, the right to...You name it!
But, as always, when someone actually are trying to help a group in society, human or animal, there's always an outcry from the loudmouths in the business of religion.
I say, good on you Netherlands! A country that was the first to reckognize LGBT and to have equal marriage laws!

Alicia N.
Alicia N6 years ago


Sue Griffiths
SUE Griffiths6 years ago

I've heard that argument before. Of couse you can't release millions of animals into the wild. I agree with that. But that shouldn't give farmers/ranchers carte blanche to carry on overpopulating. Animals will only breed to the amount of food available. They would much prefer a life roaming or simply being put out to pasture, like farmers did in the old days, rather than being reared on a miserable factory farm intensively. The question you should always ask with any animal is 'do they have a life worth living'. Given the choice they would prefer to chance their life with preditors rather than being trapped, caged etc. A short, happy natural life such as nature dictates is preferable to being used and abused by human beings, then at the end to be cruelly slaughtered, whether by hahal or standard methods. I'm all for freedom of religious beliefs, but not when it comes to an animal suffering. Just because people have always done things in a certain way, doesn't make it right. Cockfighting was popular for generations until it was banned, but I'm sure the majority would not like to bring it back.

Maitreya L6 years ago

@Sue, I think releasing millions of farm animals into the wild would likely cause some serious environmental problems, and probably would not improve their lives much as most would probably die in an even worse fashion such as starvation. Even animals well adapted to life in the wild rarely make it to ripe old age, and usually die in some unpleasant fashion such as disease or starvation. I doubt being killed by a wild predator or starvation or nasty disease is more pleasant than having your throat cut or being stunned first. Granted they get some freedom, and more "happy" time than factory farm animals, but nature is hardly a paradise.

Also when you try to oppress people's religious belief's, they can sometimes riot or start wars. Hopefully they won't over an issue like this, but you better have a good reason and a lot of resolve if you want to force people to follow your beliefs, because they tend to fight back.

Sue Griffiths
SUE Griffiths6 years ago

@MD L.
I say let the animals have their freedom.

@Prisca O.
Religious customs ought to be respected,accepted and tolerated? I say animals should be respected, accepted and tolerated.

Sue Griffiths
SUE Griffiths6 years ago

So you think that standard slaughter is more humane than halal? Most people don't want to think where their meat comes from. They buy their meat from supermarkets, already cut up and packed. They don't see what suffering the animals go through, nor do they want to see. I e-mailed 4 supermarkets here in the uk. They said that unless it was organic home grown meat, then it was halal. Whichever way you dress it up, animals suffer for your plate. So which is it to be, standard killing or hahal? Below is a video of both methods. You choose.

Bermet M.
Bermet M6 years ago

Humane way of treating an animal would be not to kill it. However, when it comes to the Halal practice and witnessing it I can comment that it is more dignified than the industrial way. For the people who are not familiar with the industrial process I would recommend to do their research first before commenting.

Judith Corrigan
Judith Corrigan6 years ago

Why nowadays,if someone who disagrees with a decision being made,they sometimes bring into the arguement racism or being anti-religious?I don't think that this started out as anything but concern for animal welfare.

yashoda j.
Yashoda jordan6 years ago

the Dutch government voted against undrugged slaughter, ritual or not.