The Jewish community in the Netherlands is struggling to accept recent legislation banning ritual animal slaughter, fearing that the new bill will trigger a domino effect that will make kosher meat scarce all across Europe.
Dutch legislators ruled Tuesday that livestock must be stunned before being slaughtered, contrary to the Muslim halal and Jewish kosher laws that require animals to be fully conscious.
Rabbi Yitschok Huisman, who heads a Chabad branch in Amsterdam, told Ynet on Wednesday that Jews and Muslims are "in the same boat" when it comes to the ban.
"At this point, the step was mainly meant to hurt the Muslims," he said. "Many don't like them here. It's true that there are those who don't like us either, so it might have contributed to the measure as well."
He said that the views held by right-wing Dutch politician Geert Wilders,
who was acquitted recently of hate speech and discrimination charges after making anti-Islam statements, are a case in point.
"While (Wilders) says that he loves Israel and Jews, his objection to Muslims has surpassed that (love)," he said. "He expressed support for the bill, claiming that there are dangerous violations in kosher slaughter."
Muslim-owned butcher shop in Amsterdam. (Photo: AP)
While the Jewish community in Holland has devised ways to bypass the bill, there is fear that the kosher practice will soon be banned all across Europe.
"Right now it's a big problem for us, because we can slaughter meat according to the halacha outside of Holland, but there are concerns that all of Europe will follow suit with the kosher slaughter ban, and that the next step will ban the import of kosher meat into the country," Huisman said.
There are those whose livelihood has been threatened by the slaughter ban. Sami Bar-On, who left Israel 32 years ago, owns two restaurants and a grocery store in Amsterdam, all of which carry kosher meat.
"The Jewish community isn't going to give up, and if the law is passed in the upper house as well, they will turn to the European Court," he said. "I don't believe that the bill will pass. If Europe is a union, they cannot say 'yes' in one place and 'no' in another."
He said that the legislators who initiated the bill are basing it on the wrong studies. "The Party for the Animals, which holds only two parliament seats, claims that the animal suffers for two minutes with the other method, while with kosher slaughter the animal suffers for four minutes." Bar-On explained. "But the Jews proved that with the Jewish slaughter it isn't so, and it is timed at two minutes as well."
He added that the ruling came into play primarily because of the Muslim presence. "Geert Wilders voted for it only because of the Muslims," he said. "There are many Muslims here, and few Jews. The Muslims are already coming out against the parliament members who are in support, and I believe it will make a difference because they are a voting power here."
Bar-On said that the ban might lead to illegal slaughter – especially since the next step on the legislators' agenda is prohibiting kosher meat from being imported from Belgium and France.
"For the past few years we have not beeen allowed to slaughter poultry, so the butchers go to Belgium to do it," he said. "If this is forbidden next, what will we do?"
Meanwhile, the Israeli organization Anonymous for Animal Rights inveighed against the Dutch bill.
"Prohibiting kosher slaughter is hypocritical, because there is no such thing as mass slaughter on a conveyor belt," the animal rights advocacy group said, claiming that animal abuse begins long before the butchery phase.
"Chicks undergo genetic mutation for faster growth, are held in crowded cages soaked with ammonia, fed with antibiotics and starved for over 24 hours before the slaughter – the only day they get to see daylight is their last day alive, when they are violently piled into cages on freight trucks," the group said.