How’s this for strange bed-fellows? Dutch (mostly far-left) non-human animal rights supporters are teaming with the far-right ‘Freedom Party’ (which continues to be driven by worries about the considerable Muslim influence in the Netherlands) to ban certain kinds of religiously motivated slaughter of non-human animals:
As in most western countries, Dutch law dictates that butchers must stun livestock — render it unconscious — before it can be slaughtered, to minimize the animals’ pain and fear. But an exception is made for meat that must be prepared under ancient Jewish and Muslim dietary laws and practices. These demand that animals be slaughtered while still awake, by swiftly cutting the main arteries of their necks with razor-sharp knives.
Apparently a clear majority favor the ban, but complicating factors surrounding this issue push beyond the already controversial topic of non-human animal rights/welfare–and play into a seriously-strained relationship between Dutch Muslims and secularists:
Abdulfatteh Ali-Salah, director of Halal Correct, a certification body for Dutch halal meat, said he felt the debate made Muslims in the Netherlands feel Dutch society is more interested in animal welfare than fair treatment of its Muslim citizens.
“If the law goes through now there’s nothing else to do but protest,” he said. “And that’s what we’ll do.”
This also marks an important reversal given that “Holland has proud traditions of tolerance and was one of the first countries in Europe to allow Jews to live openly with their religion in the 17th Century.”
But it is nevertheless true that:
“Religious freedom isn’t unlimited,” said Party for the Animals leader Marianne Thieme in an interview. She said the law will be “good news for the two million animals that are slaughtered (without stunning) each year in our country. It’s not a small amount.”
At this point it might be helpful to remember the shift in Jewish understanding of right relationship with God and non-human animals described in Psalm 51:
For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it;
you will not be pleased with a burnt offering.
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.
Perhaps it is time for another shift in understanding…but this time for all the Abrahamic religions. Perhaps right relationship with God and non-human animals, understood in light of scripture’s claim that they are our kin and companions (see Genesis 2: 18-19), implies that God also does not delight in their unnecessary slaughter for food–whether via kosher, halal, or factory farming practices.