Amy Levin: First it was cutting foreskin, now it’s cutting throats. Jewish and Muslim ritual practices are getting the shaft lately, as the lower house of the Dutch parliament passed a bill last Tuesday, June 22nd, that would ban shechita (kosher) and halal slaughter in the Netherlands. The bill requires that animals be stunned before being killed, violating Jewish and Muslim rituals that require the animal to be fully conscious. The bill must go through the upper house of parliament to become a law.
Backers include the moderately left-wing campy-sounding Dutch political movement, Party for the Animals, as well as many right-wing supporters of the Freedom Party of Geert Wilders. According to AlJazeera, such support “comes from an odd pairing of the political left, which sees religious slaughter as inhumane, and from the anti-immigration right, which says it is foreign and barbaric.” Not surprisingly, dissenters include European Jewish, Muslim, and even Christian communities who say it is an assault on religious freedom. Though this is not the ideal circumstance for bridging Jewish-Muslim relations, both groups are experiencing similar emotive responses to discrimination, racism, and alienation.
To make matters more grotesque, there is a bizarre loophole. If Jews and Muslims can prove that their method of slaughtering is more humane, a.k.a., involves less or the same amount of pain than stunning, the bill will include a religious exemption. Simple, right? We’ll just ask the cows which method they prefer.
But leaders are taking a different route. Arguing that slitting the animal’s throat while conscious is more inhumane than stunning, Karen Soeters of the Party for the Animals claims that, “They (livestock) stay conscious for up to 5 minutes.” However, both Muslim and Jewish religious leaders and butchers claim that their rituals are created and exercised so that the animal suffers the least amount of pain in the process. On CNN’s Belief Blog, Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld claimed that, “By Jewish law, the animal must be killed in a swift, precise movement that is specifically designed to limit pain.”
If the law passes, the Netherlands will join New Zealand, Switzerland, and Scandinavian and Baltic countries in banning ritual slaughter, sharpening the growing hostility that European Jews and Muslims feel encroaching on their communities. Kosher slaughter isn’t the only religious animal rights story the media is milking. Remember that ridiculous story infiltrating the media about a rabbi stoning a dog to death? Well, it wasn’t true. (I would have linked the original article but, surprise, they have all been taken down).
Whether it’s the Monster Mohel of Foreskin Man, or the monster Muslim of halal meat, when it comes to oppressing babies and animals it seems we’ve been clearly told who the bad guys are. Although, the Israeli organization Anonymous for Animal Rights does make a point: “‘Prohibiting kosher slaughter is hypocritical, because there is no such thing as mass slaughter on a conveyor belt,” the animal rights advocacy group said, claiming that animal abuse begins “long before the butchery phase.”
Sorry to all of those rationalizing-their-guilt meat-eaters out there, but the phrase “humane-killing” seems a bit like an oxymoron. I welcome any opportunity to re-think our practices of animal cruelty, but we might want to ask ourselves in the process, who’s really got the knife?