The Dutch Food and Consumer Product Safety Authorities (Nederlandse Voedsel- en Waren Autoriteit, NVWA) advises the government to prohibit the slaughter of animals that are not stunned, because the animals experience pain. ‘I think that the government has to do something with this advice’, says the Wageningen animal ethicist Bernice Bovenkerk. ‘Three years ago the discussion about ritual slaughter – pardon my metaphor – bled to death.’
Photo: Gerben van Heijningen
Three years ago the parliament agreed with such a ban, but the senate – after protest of the Jewish and Islamic groups – rejected the ban. Now the NVWA calls for a ban.
How does an animal ethicist judge this advice?
‘According to the well-known animal ethicist Peter Singer a ban on ritual slaughter does not fight religious freedom. In the Koran and Thora it is not mentioned that you must eat meat, Singer reasons, and so banning religious slaughter you would not violate any faith laws. I think that that is too short sighted. It does say that you have the right to eat meat, and religious slaughter is a manifestation of your faith. On the opposite of this religious value you have the value of animal welfare that you are not allowed to damage. Those values are not absolute. If they collide, you must make a balanced consideration.’
What is your consideration?
‘The ritual slaughter is originated out of empathy with the animals. In the Thora and the Hadith it says: an animal must not suffer. Previously, the ritual slaughter was more welfare friendly than other slaughter methods. In the spirit of the law you can also adjust the slaughter regulations, in favour of animal welfare. I think that this is why the Dutch government should find out, together with the Jewish and Islamic groups: can you slaughter animal welfare friendly while keeping the religious value?’
Why not just ban it?
‘Yes, but then you would have to ban all slaughter. Because, in my view, animals have a moral status. If we kill them, we take away their chance of ever experiencing pleasurable moments. That makes the act of killing itself, with or without stunning, a welfare issue for me, similar to the suffering of animals in the bio-industry. That is why I think that a ban on ritual slaughter is a good first step towards ending the bio-industry.’