Friday, April 15, 2011

Dutch might ban ritual slaughter. Is circumcision next?

Holland is considering banning ritual slaughter. From AP:
One of Europe's first countries to allow Jews to practice their religion openly may soon pass a law banning centuries-old Jewish and Muslim traditions on the ritual slaughter of animals.

In the Netherlands, an unlikely alliance of an animal rights party and the xenophobic Freedom Party is spearheading support for the ban on kosher and halal slaughter methods that critics say inflict unacceptable suffering on animals.

The far right's embrace of the bill, which is expected to go to a parliamentary vote this month, is based mostly on its strident hostility toward the Dutch Muslim population. The Party for the Animals, the world's first such party to be elected to parliament, says humane treatment of animals trumps traditions of tolerance.

Jewish and Muslim groups call the initiative an affront to freedom of religion.

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.

What scientific studies exist that show that Jewish ritual slaughter is more painful than stunning animals before slaughtering them? I am not aware of any. What I am aware of is how Temple Grandin, possibly the world's foremost expert on animal pain during slaughter, has described when Jewish slaughter - shechita - is done correctly:

When shechitah was performed on each steer, I was amazed that the animal did not move. To find out if shechitah was really painless, I started holding the head of each animal with less and less pressure to see if it would move during shechitah. Even big bulls stayed still when the head holder was so loose they could have easily pulled their heads out....In the hands of the best shochets, the animal does not make a sound or flinch, and drops unconscious in eight to 10 seconds.
So the Ap article is correct: the push to ban ritual slaughter is not based on compassion for animals but on xenophobia for Muslims, which is spilling over into Jews.

In short, the proposed ban is an expression of pure bigotry.

And it is not stopping there. From the apparent success of the campaign against ritual slaughter, the xenophobes have now set their sights on circumcision. An op-ed in de Volkskrant, a major Dutch newspaper, argues that male circumcision is immoral and just as barbaric as stoning or female genital mutilation, and therefore should be outlawed.

Interestingly, the arguments again are not based on any scientific study that shows a negative effects from male circumcision. The arguments are:

- Boys circumcision is a medically futile act on a minor patient.
- Boys Circumcision violates the integrity of the body, the right to religious freedom and the right to autonomy of the child.
- Boys Circumcision is contrary to the rule that minors may only be subjected to medical procedures in cases of illness or changes, or if it can be convincingly demonstrated that the intervention in the interests of the child, such as vaccinations.
- Boys Circumcision has sometimes serious complications.
Of course, religious imperative to this writer does not override the lack of real negative consequences.

How can we prove that the writer is clearly anti-religion, rather than just advocating for the rights of male babies?

It is very simple. The exact same four points can be made about the practice of piercing the ears of young girls. It violates the integrity of the body, it violates the rights of children to make their own choices, and it sometimes has serious complications, including major infections. Yet can one conceive of a Dutch law to criminalize piercings?

In both the cases of the ritual slaughter and circumcision, people who are driven by xenophobia are hiding behind humanitarian rationales to push their agenda of hate. Otherwise, they would be far more interested in coming up with standards where religious rituals such as these can be made as safe and humane as possible.

This is one reason why Jews need to be careful about which far-right groups they associate with. Not all of them are this bad, of course. But some anti-Muslim groups are motivated more by irrational hate of anything associated with Islam rather than for justice and human rights. They can easily become as obsessed with Jews as they are with Muslims.

(h/t Metzada)