The Dutch government is drafting a decree that would give it veto power over anyone who wants to practice ritual slaughter, or sh’chitah, in the Netherlands.
The draft decree, which was signed by Dutch Agriculture Minister Henk Bleker, was drawn up by the government to end two years of uncertainty about the future of the 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,” Amsterdam Chief Rabbi Aryeh Ralbag told JTA.
The decree formulated by Bleker is based largely on a contract his office signed in June with representatives of the Jewish and Muslim communities.
The contract constituted 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 both 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 prohibit their consumption by kosher or halal consumers.
The contract introduced regulations such as to the size of the knife to be used and where the animal’s neck would be cut, but did not require that 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 of kosher slaughtering. He added, however, that it did not contradict Jewish Halacha.
Last month, Moshe Kantor, president of the European Jewish Congress, said the contract was a “model” for ensuring religious freedom in Europe.