Animal rights clash with religious freedom in the Netherlands

The Party for the Animals is trying to ban religious slaughtering in the Netherlands, saying it's unnecessarily cruel. But the party's push could increase tensions with the country's Jewish and Muslim communities.

Lara Bullens
Lara Bullens NewsMavens, Western Europe
Animal rights clash with religious freedom in the Netherlands - NewsMavens
Pig. Wikicommons

Why this story matters:

religion, politics

In the Netherlands, there is only one slaughterhouse in the country that practices kosher killing, and it does so only once a week. But for the Party for the Animals (PvdD), a single-issue party advocating animal welfare, that is too much.

Since 2010, the PvdD has been trying to banish this practice, arguing that it's unnecessarily violent and causes the animal too much pain. Although halal methods are diverse and sometimes stun the animal, shochet (or kosher killing) is often done when the animal is still conscious.

Now, with five seats in parliament, the Party for the Animals has announced their intent to ban all religious slaughtering.

It may not be the wisest move. Banning this form of slaughtering would affect less than 1 percent of the total meat slaughtered for consumption in the Netherlands, making the impact of the law quite small. The party also may create a double standard in which one type of animal treatment is targeted while a more widespread and systemic mistreatment occurs in the global meat industry every day.

Focusing on a country’s religious minority rather than perpetually condoning and calling out big players in the meat industry has strong discriminatory undertones.

Ritual slaughter is permitted in the Netherlands, with restrictions. The Dutch Senate put new rules in place in 2011 saying the animal must be shot if it is still experiencing pain 40 seconds after being slaughtered, and that the number of religiously slaughtered animals in the country should never exceed the needs of these religious communities (i.e. the meat should not be exported).

With the rise of anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim sentiments across Europe, choosing to target religious minorities over animal welfare may only propagate bigotry. Rather than choosing a less controversial animal rights issue that promotes unity, the Party for the Animals -- whether consciously or not -- are choosing a divide-and-rule strategy.

Details from the story:

  • The Party for the Animals in the Netherlands are trying to ban religious slaughtering for halal and kosher diets 
  • Of the 500 million animals slaughtered every year for consumption in the Netherlands, about 1.6 million to 2 million are used for halal, and only 3,000 are used for kosher meat
  • The party has been criticized for targeting religious minorities and creating double standards with  their political agenda
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