THE HAGUE (JTA) — The Dutch Senate formally scrapped legislation to ban ritual slaughter in the Netherlands.
Fifty-one of the 75 senators voted Tuesday not to ratify the law passed last year by the parliament.
The vote is the final word in a protracted public debate about animal welfare, religious freedom and integration that began in September 2008, when tiny Holland’s Party for Animals submitted a bill to ban the slaughter of conscious animals. Islamic and Jewish law require that animals be conscious at the time of the slaughter.
Last week, the Dutch Senate ratified a deal to adapt ritual slaughter to the state’s animal welfare norms.
The Jewish and Muslim communities signed the deal with the minister of agriculture. Under the deal, animals may remain conscious for up to 40 seconds after their throats are cut. Animals that stay conscious after that are stunned, rendering them non-kosher and non-halal.
Amsterdam’s chief rabbi, Aryeh Ralbag, and two rabbinical judges said they were unhappy about the deal because it constituted government interference. However, they agreed the process was kosher.
“We were able to reach this tremendous victory in the Senate thanks to the covenant,” Binyomin Jacobs, a Dutch chief rabbi and prominent member of the Rabbinical Centre of Europe, told JTA.
The deputy director of RCE, a Brussels-based organization, said he hoped the deal would serve as a precedent to defend shechitah, Jewish ritual slaughter, elsewhere in Europe. “This is an ongoing effort,” Rabbi Aryeh Goldberg said.
Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt, president of the Conference of European Rabbis, said that “We hope that this vote will also send a message of religious tolerance and freedom to other countries in Europe which contemplate legislation which further restricts freedom of religion.
Goldschmidt said his organization, a rabbinical alliance established in 1956, hoped that Switzerland, Norway and the Baltic states would “eventually repeal” their anti-shechitah laws.