EU: Dutch groups agree on ritual animal slaughter reforms

 AFP/The Hague

Dutch Agriculture Deputy Minister Henk Bleker signed an agreement with religious leaders yesterday to make ritual slaughter more humane, including stunning animals after 40 seconds.

“The agreement states that animals have to be unconscious 40 seconds after a cut to the neck has been performed,” Bleker’s ministry said in a statement, adding: “If not the case, the animal has to be stunned.”

The agreement also insisted the cut “had to be done with one fluid uninterrupted movement.

Plans by the Dutch Lower House for a law requiring animals to be stunned before halal or kosher slaughter suffered a setback late last year when parliament’s Upper House, which has the final say, gave it the thumbs down, urging a compromise solution.

Bleker then met Dutch Muslim and Jewish representatives for a solution. He said yesterday’s accord was “a good balance … between religious freedom and the improvement of the welfare of animals”.

A scientific advice committee has also been set up to answer any questions about the agreement, which comes into force today.

Dutch law requires animals to be stunned before butchering but makes an exception for ritual halal and kosher slaughter.

In June last year, the Dutch Lower House voted in favour of an amended proposal by the country’s Party for the Animals (PvdD), which holds two seats in the 150-seat Lower House, for a law that all animals should be stunned before slaughter.

The plan drew outrage from both the Muslim and Jewish communities, whose representatives insisted ritual slaughter respected the animals’ welfare and that those doing the slaughtering were expertly trained.

More than 2mn animals are ritually slaughtered in the Netherlands every year, according to the PvdD. Muslim groups say it is closer to 250,000.