On Tuesday (6/28/11), the Dutch Animal Rights Party voted 116-30 in the lower house of parliament to ban the slaughter of unstunned animals. However, the Netherlands' Muslim and Jewish communities — numbering about 1 million and 40,000 respectively — have condemned the proposed ban as a violation of religious freedoms.
Individuals from these two faiths believe the requirement runs contrary to Muslim halal and Jewish kosher laws that require animals to be fully conscious.
"There was no reason for passing this law," said Imam Mahmut of the El Tawheed mosque. "This is a political decision. Who has the authority to determine whether the way of killing animals is good or not?"
Chief Rabbi Jacobs said the exemption in the law stipulated "that we must prove the animal slaughtered the Jewish way suffers less or the same as with stunning, but this absolutely impossible to prove. You can't ask the animal how it feels afterwards. Nobody can prove this."
Marianne Thieme, head of the Animal Rights Party, strongly disagrees. Prior to the parliament vote, she said that the methods do in fact cause unnecessary pain to the animal. "Religious freedom cannot be unlimited," she said. "For us, religious freedom stops where human or animal suffering begins."
The Farm Animal Welfare Council (FAWC), an independent advisory body established by the Government of Great Britain in 1979, said in 2003 that the way Kosher and Halal meat is produced causes severe suffering to animals.
"This is a major incision into the animal and to say that it doesn't suffer is quite ridiculous," said FAWC chairwoman, Dr Judy MacArthur Clark.
Compassion in World Farming (CIWF) backed the call, saying: "We believe that the law must be changed to require all animals to be stunned before slaughter."
According to a June 2003 study (pdf) by FAWC, "when a very large transverse incision is made across the neck, a number of vital tissues are transected including: skin, muscle, trachea, oesophagus, carotid arteries, jugular veins, major nerve trunks plus numerous minor nerves. Such a drastic cut will inevitably trigger a barrage of sensory information to the brain in a sensible (conscious) animal. We are persuaded that such a massive injury would result in very significant pain and distress in the period before insensibility supervenes."
The ban on live, unstunned killing in the Netherlands has yet to be approved by the upper house before becoming law.