(JTA) — The head of the European Jewish Congress called on the Dutch prime minister to re-examine a proposed law that would ban kosher slaughter.
The Dutch Parliament is scheduled to vote next week on the legislation, an amendment to the Commercial Slaughter Code which mandates that all animals for commercial slaughter must first be stunned, which is forbidden in shechitah, or kosher slaughter.
In his letter to Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, EJC President Moshe Kantor said that the legislation would violate Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights, namely the right to freedom of religious practice. He also pointed out that Muslim ritual slaughter does not expressly forbid pre-slaughter stunning of animals, meaning that the legislation only affects the Jewish community and its slaughter of a couple thousand animals each year.
"The Jewish community in Holland has its roots in those Jews who fled persecution and discrimination to a land which has since become acclaimed for its freedom of religion and expression," Kantor wrote.
"This ban will almost solely affect the Jewish community. Under Jewish law, which has been practiced for millennia, stunning before slaughter is completely forbidden whereas under Islamic law, there are many interpretations which allow prior stunning."
If the legislation passes, it would make Holland the first European Union country to ban shechitah, according to the European Jewish Congress. The EJC also has expressed concern that if the legislation passes, it will have a domino effect on similar legislation in other parts of Europe.
Last December, the European Union Council rejected a controversial kosher meat labeling requirement as part of its new food information regulation. The requirement would have required that all kosher slaughtered meat and meat products to be pejoratively labeled as "meat from slaughter without stunning."
A controversial ban on kosher slaughter put in place by New Zealand’s agriculture minister was partially reversed last November amid allegations that his decision was taken to appease Muslim countries that have lucrative trade relations with New Zealand. The ban on kosher slaughter of poultry was suspended, while the ban on beef remains.