TIMESONLINE… One of Europe’s first countries to allow Jews to practice their religion openly could pass a law banning centuries-old traditions on the ritual slaughter of animals.
An unlikely alliance of an animal rights party and the Freedom Party is behind a ban on kosher and halal slaughter methods in the Netherlands.
They claims the practices inflict unacceptable suffering on animals.
The far right’s support of the bill, which is expected to go to a parliamentary vote this month, is based on its strident hostility towards the Dutch Muslim population.
The Party of Animals, the world’s first such party to be elected to parliament, said humane treatment of animals overrode traditions of tolerance.
But Jewish and Muslim groups have called the bill an affront to freedom of religion.
Ruben Vis, a spokesman for the CJO, an umbrella group of Jewish organisations, said: ‘I can speak for the Dutch Jewish community and I think for the wider Jewish world, that this law raises grave concerns about infringements on religious freedoms.’
Abdulfatteh Ali-Salah, director of Halal Correct, said Muslims felt Dutch society was more interested in animal welfare than fair treatment of its citizens.
‘If the law goes through now there’s nothing else to do but protest,’ he said.
Dutch law dictates that butchers must stun livestock before it can be slaughtered, to minimise the animals’ pain and fear.
But exceptions are made for meat that must be prepared under ancient Jewish and Muslim dietary laws and practices.
These demand that animals be slaughtered while still awake, by swiftly cutting the main arteries of their necks with sharp knives.
Most Dutch are believed to favour a ban.
If the bill is passed, the Netherlands will join New Zealand, Scandinavian countries and Switzerland which have had bans for decades.
The Netherlands has a proud history of tolerance and was one of the first countries in Europe to allow Jews to live openly with their religion in the 17th century.
The country has around one million Muslims out of a total population of around 16 million. There are estimated to be around 50,000 Jews after 70 per cent of their community died in Nazi concentration camps in World War Two.