Dutch gov’t planning control over shechitah

THE HAGUE (JTA) — The Dutch government is drafting a decree that would give the government veto power over anyone who wants to practice ritual slaughter, or shechitah, in the Netherlands.

The draft decree, which was signed by Dutch Agriculture Minister Henk Bleker, was drawn up by the government to end two years of uncertainty about the future of the practice in the Netherlands. The Dutch daily NRC Handelsblad published the contents of the draft decree last Friday.

“If veterinarians are put in charge of shechitah, then before long it would basically stop shechitah in the Netherlands,” Amsterdam Chief Rabbi Aryeh Ralbag told JTA.

The decree formulated by Bleker was based largely on a contract signed by his office in June with representatives of the Jewish and Muslim communities.

The contract constituted the Dutch government’s compromise on regulating ritual slaughter. The Dutch lower house passed a ban last year, but it was scrapped by the Senate out of consideration for freedom of worship. The ban was on all slaughter of conscious animals — a requirement of Jewish and Muslim law.

According to the contract, animals that are still conscious after 40 seconds of the cutting of their throats would be stunned, which would render them unusable for kosher or halal purposes. It introduced regulations as to the size of the knife used and where the animal’s neck would be cut, but did not say a veterinarian would oversee the procedure.  

Earlier this week, Ralbag wrote to Bleker to ask that the minister wait until Nov. 1 before issuing any final decree. Bleker, a member of a caretaker government, is expected to be replaced in the coming weeks. 

Ralbag said he needed more time to formulate his concerns about the draft. He has not received the minister’s answer to his request, he said.

Ralbag had said the contract, signed by the Organization of the Jewish Communities in the Netherlands, was  “flawed” and warned it could ultimately eliminate the practice. He added, however, it did not contradict Halacha, the Jewish Orthodox law.

Last month, Moshe Kantor, president of the European Jewish Congress, said the contract was a "model" for ensuring religious freedom in Europe.

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