Animal Rights Party leader Marianne Thieme’s plan to introduce a ban on ritual slaughter has failed to make it through the Senate, the upper house of the Dutch parliament. Ms Thieme withdrew from the debate after intervention by Agriculture Minister Bleker.
The minister put forward a compromise. He wants to make agreements with slaughterhouses and the Islamic and Jewish community about the length of time that an animal is conscious before dying and the number of animals ritually slaughtered. The senate has asked for a letter from the minister explaining his plan.
Ms Thieme wanted to ban the ritual slaughter of animals because they are not stunned before being killed and therefore experience extra stress and pain. The bill was passed with a large majority in the lower house in June, but in the senate only the Animal Rights Party, the Freedom Party, the 50Plus party and the Independent Senators bloc openly backed the bill. Eventually the Socialist Party, Democrats D66 and Green Left sided with the Animal Rights Party after they were persuaded by Ms Thieme.
Senator Sybe Schaap of the VVD, the senior coalition party, had already made up his mind. He saw no value in the idea and called on Ms Thieme to review her draft legislation.
During the debate, the Labour Party, Christian Democrats and the orthodox Christian SGP party were also critical. They want to know whether animal suffering would be sufficiently reduced to warrant a limitation of religious freedom. At the moment, ritual slaughter is permitted by way of a legal exception. In the end, it became clear that Ms Thieme did not have a majority of the senate behind her after the Labour Party decided to oppose the bill.
Many senators thought the bill was merely token legislation, arguing that kosher (Jewish) and halal (Muslim) meat will simply be imported from abroad.
Senators also criticised the legislation because it states that if slaughterhouses can prove that animals do not undergo extra suffering they may be exempted from the ban. The senators say this is a reversal of the burden of proof and therefore a dead letter.