This story is cross-posted from JTA.
Dutch Agriculture Minister Hans Bleker signed an agreement with Jewish and Muslim religious leaders and slaughterhouses that will prevent a ban on ritual slaughter.
Under the agreement signed Tuesday, animals can continue to be ritually slaughtered as long as they lose consciousness within 40 seconds of their throats being cut. After 40 seconds they must be stunned, which is prohibited under both Jewish and Islamic law.
A prominent Dutch rabbi, however, criticized the covenant as “unacceptable.”
“The government is concerning itself with issues such as how to perform the cut. That is the domain of rabbis and the Jewish community,” Lody van de Kamp, a rabbi and politician, told the daily Reformatorisch Dagblad Wednesday. “The government should stay out.”
The agreement comes following Animal Rights Party leader Marianne Thieme’s withdrawal in December of a bill that would have required stunning of all animals before slaughtering, after a majority of senators expressed their objection to the ban on kosher slaughter, or shechitah. The measure had passed the lower house of the Dutch parliament in June 2011.
Dutch law had required animals to be stunned before slaughter but made an exception for Muslim halal and Jewish shechitah. The Animal Rights Party says that more than 2 million animals are ritually slaughtered.
Van de Kamp represents the Council for Ritual Slaughter – a small haredi-Orthodox group. His organization was not involved in signing the covenant. The Jewish community was represented there by NIK, the Organization of Jewish Communities in The Netherlands – an umbrella group.
In the interview, Van de Kamp said the NIK “had no authority to rule on rabbinical matters.” NIK said the agreement is satisfactory to virtually all parts of the Jewish community.
The European Union requires animals to be stunned before slaughter but makes exceptions for religiously mandated ritual slaughter. Nevertheless, ritual slaughter is banned in Luxembourg, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland.