AMSTERDAM (JTA) — The Dutch government said it may exempt the country’s only kosher slaughterhouse from a newly introduced export ban, which the Jewish abattoir said would be financially devastating.
Caspar Itz, a spokesman for the Ministry of Economic Affairs, was replying to JTA’s questions following the publication of a letter written by the lawyer for the Slagerij Marcus abattoir saying the slaughterhouse would not survive the implementation of a government policy paper limiting the production of meat without stunning to the needs of faith communities in the Netherlands.
“Upon request, special circumstances may be taken into account” when it comes to the de facto ban in export, Itz wrote in an email. His letter did not say whether such an exception would apply to the Jewish-owned abattoir specifically.
The limitation on the export of kosher and halal meat came in an agreement signed by Economic Affairs Minister Martijn van Dam and Muslim and Jewish faith and community leaders, including from the Organization of Jewish Communities in the Netherlands, or NIK. The extension of a 2012 agreement on the production of kosher and halal meat introduced a new stipulation on export.
A clause in the document signed July 5 states that meat may be produced without stunning the animals, as is common in kosher slaughter, but that such meat will “not exceed the actual needs of communities present in the Netherlands.”
The slaughterhouse’s lawyer, Herman Loonstein, wrote to NIK that this stipulation means bankruptcy for Slagerij Marcus, which relies on export for approximately 40 percent of its revenue.
Religious laws in Islam and Judaism require animals be conscious when their necks are cut. Animal rights activist consider this practice cruel, though its advocates argue it results in less or equal suffering compared to industrial slaughter methods with stunning. Nationalists and anti-Islam activists also oppose ritual slaughter in Europe, ostensibly because they view it as foreign to their native culture.
NIK last week published a statement dismissing the kosher slaughterhouse’s concerns as “unfounded.” Marcus can “continue to do business as it has always done; business as usual. An export ban is not under consideration and would violate EU rules,” NIK wrote.
Marcus can also “continue to export if it is necessary to provide the Dutch market in a profitable way. This has been agreed explicitly in the negotiation of the agreement,” NIK added.
But the agreement signed with the ministry mentioned neither Slagerij Marcus nor special circumstances that apply to its situation.
Itz did not reply when asked whether his ministry shares NIK’s interpretation of a ban on export being a violation of EU laws. He only wrote, “The agreement’s implementation will be done in accordance to EU laws.”
In 2011, the Dutch lower house passed a ban on ritual slaughter with support from the Party for the Animals and the far-right Party for Freedom. But the Dutch Senate reversed the ban, arguing it was infringing on freedom of worship.
Two of Belgium’s three regions have passed regulations in recent weeks outlawing the production of kosher and halal meat.