Dutch minister demands control over ritual slaughter

THE HAGUE (JTA) — The Dutch government is demanding final word for its agents on every ritual slaughter performed in the Netherlands.

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Amsterdam’s chief rabbi, Aryeh Ralbag, objected to the new demand -– which came in a draft for a decree signed by Dutch Agriculture Minister Henk Bleker –- as it would “basically stop shechita,” the Jewish kosher slaughter, in the Netherlands. 

Ralbag told JTA he felt “consternation” last week upon receiving the draft, which the government designed to end two years of uncertainty about the  future of practice in the Netherlands. The Dutch daily NRC Handelsblad published the contents of the draft decree on Friday.

“If veterinarians are put in charge of shechita then before long it would basically stop shechitah in the Netherlands,” Ralbag said.

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

The contract was the Dutch government’s compromise on regulating ritual slaughter. The Dutch lower house passed a total 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.

The contract said 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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