The Dutch government said it will appoint a commission to study new tightened rules for ritual slaughter to satisfy animal rights activists without infringing on Jewish and Muslim traditions.
The announcement came as the leader of the small Animal Rights Party, Marianne Thieme, decided to withdraw a bill calling for a ban of the practice of kosher slaughter, or shechita, without stunning after a majority of members of the Dutch Senate, the upper house of the parliament, objected to such a ban because it violates freedom of religion.
Earlier this year, the lower house of the Dutch parliament had voted in favor of a prohibition, but since then several political parties changed their stance on the matter, including the Socialist and Liberal parties, the largest groups in the Senate.
The anti-Muslim Party for Freedom led by Geert Wilders supported Thieme’s proposed ban which led to protests from Jewish and Muslim groups.
The bill had required that animals be stunned before slaughter. Jewish and Muslim ritual slaughter must be performed with the animal fully conscious.
Under a compromise presented by Agriculture Minister Henk Bleker, an agreement could be made with Jewish and Muslim slaughterhouses regarding the length of time that an animal is conscious before dying and the number of animals to be ritually slaughtered.
A debate last week in the Senate showed that in its current form, the bill to ban ritual slaughter – which parliament passed in June – has no majority in the Upper House. The casting vote belonged to Dutch Labor’s faction in the Senate, which decided to reject the bill. Labor had supported the same bill in parliament.
All bills passed by parliament must be ratified by the Senate to become law.
The bill requires animals be stunned before the slaughter, rendering both kosher Shechita and Halal slaughter illegal. The bill was submitted by the Party for Animals, which has two seats in parliament, and supported by the anti-Muslim Party for Freedom led by Geert Wilders – the country’s third largest with 24 seats. Noting that senate members were not elected but appointed, Geert Wilders reacted to the debate by saying the Senate should be disbanded.
Before voting in January, the Senate will review a compromise offer by Henk Bleker, state secretary for agriculture. He proposed to limit the time during which a conscious animal is allowed to die. If still alive after that period, stunning would be applied to the animal.
Bleker said he would submit a more detailed proposal in written form in the very near future, but the leader of the Party for Animals, Marianne Thieme, rejected his offer and announced plans to submit a second bill on slaughter to parliament.
Jews and Muslims slaughter animals without anaesthetising them. The Animal Rights Party fervently believes that animals should not have to endure what they call torture in order to accommodate religious beliefs.
In unanaesthetised ritual slaughter, the arteries are cut open so that the animal bleeds to death. According to veterinarians and scientists, this means that death is even more agonisingly painful and drawn out. This, however, is disputed within the Jewish and Muslim communities.