Holland Debates Banning Ritual Slaughter

Laurens Peters

Approximately 2 million animals are slaughtered in the Netherlands without stunning each year. This number is composed mainly of poultry, but also of large numbers of sheep and cattle. Although Dutch and European laws generally prohibit slaughter without stunning, exception is granted to ritual slaughter, practiced by parts of the Jewish and Muslim communities. In 2008, the Royal Dutch Veterinary Society published a report proving that this practice causes the animals to experience much stress and unacceptable suffering (video produced by the Party for the Animals, contains shocking footage).

This month, the Tweede Kamer (the Dutch Lower House of Parliament) completed a first reading of a bill to prohibit ritual slaughter, i.e. to make the existing ban on slaughter without prior stunning absolute. The bill was introduced by the Dutch Party for the Animals (PvdD), which holds two seats in the House. Although the proposal is likely to be adopted, it has received plenty of media attention. The discussion has been focused on the clash of fundamental rights and values.

For animals have not been accorded explicit rights in the Dutch constitution. However, there are national and supranational laws in place that protect animal welfare and prohibit cruelty towards animals. On the other hand, freedom of religion is embedded in the constitution as a fundamental right of all inhabitants. The question that is currently before Parliament is whether the goal of preventing animal cruelty trumps a religious practice that, according to believers, is a fundamental part of their religion. According to recently shifted public opinion, the balance tips to the side of the animals. Sweden, Norway, Estonia, Iceland, Switzerland have already banned ritual laughter and legislative action is under way in Spain and Belgium.

There are voices that see the ban as an undue burden on minority communities who merely want to practice their ancient religious customs. And although the PvdD’s proposal is guided by an honest concern for animals, some commentators fear that the bill will contribute to a wider populist political climate where there is more and more talk of ‘defending’ Dutch values and mistrust towards this diverse society’s minority groups.

2 Responses

  1. […] More than two million animals – mainly sheep and chickens – are ritually slaughtered every year in the Netherlands. […]

  2. Has the Netherlands banned hunting of animals?
    Or are they selectively promoting measures that discriminate against religious minorities?

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