New Slaughtering Rules Pit Dutch Religious Freedoms Against Animal Rights


By Nina Siegal, The New York Times

Dec 31, 2017


AMSTERDAM — For 60 years, the Sal Meyer deli in Amsterdam has been serving kosher foods like its signature pekelvlees, a fatty corned beef steeped in meat juices and served with a bun.


The deli is one of the few kosher restaurants left in Amsterdam, a city that once had such a vibrant Jewish community that it still retains the nickname Mokum, the Yiddish word for “safe haven.” People travel from miles away to meet their friends there, and the deli holds a small community together in a country where 80 percent of the Jewish population was killed during World War II.


“This is a very important place for the Jewish community, and the fact that we have the meat that is still approved by the rabbi is an important thing for our customers,” said Martijn Koppert, a co-owner of the restaurant. “It’s really part of the community life.”


But starting Monday, keeping customers satisfied may get more difficult, not just for Sal Meyer but also for kosher and halal butchers across the Netherlands.


Observant Jews and Muslims follow religious laws that dictate that they eat the meat of animals that have been slaughtered according to strict rules, including that the animals are conscious and healthy when their throats are cut. Animal rights activists say the practice causes unnecessary suffering.


Responding to pressure from the activists, Jewish and Muslim groups have agreed to make changes in an effort to preserve their slaughtering practices.


It has come to illustrate a broader debate across Europe that has pitted advocates of religious freedom and minority rights against a growing movement for animal rights.


Many other European countries — including Belgium, Denmark, Estonia, Germany, Lithuania, Norway and Sweden — also have laws or rules on the books banning or limiting religious slaughter. Some are quite old — Switzerland’s rules, for example, date from the 1890s. Others were instituted in the 1930s under Nazi rule.


But in recent years, animal rights activists have campaigned for stricter limits or outright bans on methods they consider cruel.


The Dutch Party for the Animals, which currently has five seats in Parliament, first pushed for changes in 2010. The measure was passed by the lower house and then rejected by the senate, which nevertheless issued a resolution requiring the religious groups involved to develop slaughter practices with more consciousness toward animal welfare.


Even though a compromise solution was developed, the Dutch animal rights party is again planning to introduce legislation early this year in an attempt to ban religious slaughter.


Recently, two regional parliaments in Belgium passed laws to end religious slaughter starting in 2019, though both measures face legal challenges in Belgian courts...