Dutch parliament set to axe religious slaughter

Motty Rosenzweig is the only remaining kosher slaughterer in the Netherlands and, if a new law goes through, he will be the last.

The Dutch parliament is preparing to pass a law that would end religious slaughterers’ exemption from rules requiring animals be “stunned” or anaesthetised before they are killed. Because Jewish and Muslim rules do not permit animals to be unconscious when they are killed, the law would in effect ban kosher and halal slaughter in the Netherlands.

For Mr Rosenzweig, it is the latest sign of rising religious intolerance in a country where broad-mindedness has been a defining value since the 17th century.

“The country has changed. They’re not friendly any more to any religious needs people may have,” says Mr Rosenzweig. His grandfather, also a kosher slaughterer in Amsterdam, died in the Holocaust, as did 75 per cent of Holland’s Jews.

“They’re making us feel they want us to get away, leave the country.”

Many Jews and Muslims see the ban as part of a growing European hostility to immigration and diversity. Geert Wilders, the far-right Dutch politician, has called for the Netherlands to ban the burka after France curbed the public wearing of the Islamic face veil; politicians including Germany’s Angela Merkel and Britain’s David Cameron have proclaimed the failure of multiculturalism; and anti-immigration parties such as Finland’s True Finns have been increasingly successful at the polls.

Yet supporters of the ban on ritual slaughter see it as a continuation of the Dutch tradition of progressive ethical leadership. The proposal originated with the Netherlands’ Party for the Animals, whose two seats in parliament make it the world’s only animal rights party with representatives in a national legislature.

Marianne Thieme, its charismatic young leader, says religious leaders who object to the law are trying to hold back history.

“Here in our society we no longer accept that animals must suffer,” says Ms Thieme. Religious groups have often opposed progressive social change, she adds. “We saw the same thing with women’s rights.”

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