Animals have to be stunned before being slaughtered in halal or kosher rituals, except if it could be proven they would suffer less without it, Dutch lawmakers decided Tuesday. Dutch law states that all animals must be stunned before being butchered, but has previously made an exception for halal and kosher ritual slaughter. Tabled by the country's Party for the Animals (PvdD), which has two seats in the 150-seat parliament, a majority of the Dutch lower house adopted an amendment abolishing this exception. Parliamentarians, however, also adopted a separate amendment stating that ritual slaughter can be performed without stunning if "independent proof" could be shown that an animal would suffer less if it was not dazed.
Jewish and Muslim representatives insist that ritual slaughter respects animal welfare, citing methods used to limit suffering and arguing that ritual butchers receive expert training. They implored the Dutch government, unsuccessfully, not to change the law as it would impact on their freedom of religion. More than two million animals -- mainly sheep and chickens -- were ritually slaughtered in the Netherlands every year, the PvdD said. Abdelfattah Ali-Salah, director of Halal Correct, the organisation that issues halal certificates in the country, has called this figure "inexact", saying it was closer to 250,000.