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Animal Law, Animal Welfare

Strange Bedfellows: The Netherlands and NZ; Welfarists and the Far Right

Kosher and halal slaughter are now illegal in the Netherlands:

 Just one week after the acquittal of fiery far-right politician Geert Wilders, the Dutch parliament struck another blow against multiculturalism in the Netherlands yesterday with the passage of a bill banning ritual animal slaughter. The bill requires that all animals be stunned before being slaughtered, a requirement that conflicts with halal and kosher stipulations that animals be fully conscious.

At first glance, this looks like a classic example of the far-right undercurrent that lurks below the surface in much of Europe.  It evokes Switzerland’s controversial minaret ban, for example.  You can easily picture a pale, thin Dutchman with close-cropped chestnut hair apoplectic about immigrants, their funny cuisine, and their sick, sick, sick farming practices.

But there’s something more, and something stranger going on there. 

Foreign Policy continues:

The bill was initially proposed by the Party of the Animals, which holds two seats in the 146-seat Dutch parliament and maintains that ritual methods of slaughter are inhumane.

The Party for Animals?  Here in New Zealand, where only one Party has an animal welfare spokesperson, that seems outlandish, and extraordinarily progressive. 

Of course, the far right are still in the game: 

 It gained support from centrists on similar grounds, but Wilders’s Freedom Party has also been a longtime proponent. In fact, it was Wilders who first raised the issue in 2007 when he objected to halal meat being served at a public school in Amsterdam.

Strange bedfellows.  The Dutch animal welfare movement and the Dutch far right.

All movements, especially single-issue movements such as traditional animal welfarism or animal rights, must be careful with who they align themselves with and take real care to consider the unintended consequences of their actions.  In advancing the cause of animals, we must take care not to alienate natural allies.  Animal liberation should not come at the cost of oppressing human minorities.

New Zealand and the Netherlands are bedfellows also.  Both are in the handful of countries that have banned kosher slaughter.  In New Zealand, however, halal slaughter is legal. 

The process was very different.  No odd alliance of the SPCA and the National Front, but the slow, methodical, industry-backed process of Codes of Welfare.  Without hue or cry, we banned kosher slaughter. 

And then backed down:

Under pressure on human rights grounds the Agriculture Minister David Carter has granted an exemption to the Commercial Slaughter Code of Welfare for the local Jewish community, to be able to slaughter chickens without pre-stunning. He is also under heavy pressure to continue to allow a temporary exemption for sheep and cattle, despite it contravening the code of welfare.

What surprises me about this tale is that the state, without an Act of Parliament, banned a fundamental part of Jewish practice.  As a lawyer, I strongly suspect that this Code of Welfare could be open to legal challenge on the grounds that it is ultra vires, or outside the power that Parliament has given the executive.  But to forestall any such claims, David Carter MP backed down.

SAFE is campaigning for him to stick to his guns – but I’d pick an easier battle.  Campaigning against Jewish religious expression makes you an easy target.

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About David Tong

LLM (1st Hons) / BA/LLB (Hons) Vegan Straight Edge

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