My Take: Dutch ban is bigotry
June 30th, 2011
04:00 AM ET

My Take: Dutch ban is bigotry

Editor's note: Since 2004, Shmuel Herzfeld has been the Rabbi of Ohev Sholom - The National Synagogue, the oldest and largest Orthodox synagogue in Washington, D.C. His first book will be published within a year, titled: The Relevance of the Torah for our Modern Lives.

By Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld, Special to CNN

The lower house of the Dutch parliament recently passed legislation that would ban ritual slaughter in accordance with both Jewish law, known as shechita, and Muslim law, known as halal.  The legislation would require the stunning of animals before their slaughter, an act that is forbidden by Jewish law.

For Jews, this is a very emotional issue that cuts at the core of who we are.

In our history, we have seen unfriendly governments attack our sacred rituals as a way of sending a message to their citizens that our religion is alien and barbaric.

We know that it often masquerades as a concern for a more humane treatment of animals, but in reality, it is just a smokescreen for old-fashioned bigotry.

Indeed, in 1933, one of the first edicts of Nazi Germany was to ban shechita as inhumane. We know that banning a fundamental ritual of our religion sends the message that our entire religion is unwelcome in that country.

By saying that the food that one is required to eat may not be prepared in the country, the Dutch parliament is in effect saying to the Jewish people that we Jews are not welcome in their country.

As Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt of the Conference of European Rabbis said, the ban is an “outrage” and will “prevent Jews from living a Jewish life in The Netherlands.”  He continued, “We have passed the stage of arguing the nuances of intention of anti-Semitism. The practical effects of this bill mean that Jews are no longer welcome in The Netherlands. This has not happened for 70 years.”

For me as a rabbi and certified kosher slaughterer, it is especially painful to witness this, as I know that Jewish law requires shechita on animals because we believe that it is the most humane manner of killing the animal.

The laws of shechita are designed precisely to minimize the pain and suffering of the animal. The canard that we would all be more humane if we stunned the animals before slaughtering flies in the face of the Jewish teaching that the animals cannot be stunned, because we need to make certain that the animals are healthy enough to walk before we kill them.  In fact, the act of stunning the animal can be a much more painful process than the ritual slaughter of the animal.

Jewish law requires the animals to be treated in a humane manner while they are alive and prohibits any act that would cause unnecessary pain to an animal.

Further, every ritual slaughter requires a preinspection of the blade to make certain that there are no nicks, which might somehow cause extra pain to the animal.  By Jewish law, the animal must be killed in a swift, precise movement that is specifically designed to limit pain.

If the slaughterer pauses, presses too hard on the animal or uses the knife in a tearing fashion, then the animal is deemed to be nonkosher and cannot be eaten by a Jew.  And as soon as a fowl is slaughtered, its blood must be covered with earth in order to respect the blood of the animal.

The reason for all of these laws - and there are many more - is to limit the pain of the animal, to treat the animal with dignity and to make certain that eating the meat becomes a spiritual process that respects God’s creatures.

Perhaps in response to this hypercritical and bigoted act by the Dutch legislature, some good may arise.  Perhaps Jews and Muslims can draw closer together and recognize that when the ugly face of persecution rears its head, it often does not distinguish between the Quran and the Torah.

If Jews and Muslims can successfully work together in opposing this legislation, then maybe it will be the start of a new alliance that recognizes that we are brothers and sisters who have so much in common.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Belief • Europe • Food • Netherlands

soundoff (189 Responses)
  1. Mediator

    Well why don't people mind their own business? If you let people practice their religions the way they've been doing it as their religions say to do it, this wouldn't be a problem. But for all of you atheists who are telling these people to see the truth and the light that this is inhumane, you better get a life. If God says do something, it doesn't matter what you think, you do it. PERIOD. You obviously don't understand that concept. So rather than try to, let these people be. Do what you want, and let them do what they want. If they want to slaughter animals the old fashioned way, fine, let them. But don't try to enforce your lack of religious beliefs on people who've been following the word of God for hundreds of years.

    Besides which is more humane? A slice of the main artery and a quick death or wacking them in the head with a hammer, breaking their skull and squishing their brains, then killing them? Id say the slice and the quick death is much more humane. If you people were so concerned about humanity, you'd concentrate your efforts on helping those people who are starving in the world, rather than trolling on news stories and posting about humanity towards animals. And the same goes for the Dutch government. Do they not have anything better to do, then to be alienating people? Go help the world, if you have nothing better to do.

    July 5, 2011 at 5:44 pm |
    • Julian

      Religion is besides the point, that's what people have a hard time seeing. It is concern for the animals, the atheists couldn't care less about your traditions.

      July 5, 2011 at 7:14 pm |
    • Muneef

      Why is there so much about humanity to animals but less about humanity to humans ?

      July 5, 2011 at 7:56 pm |
    • Muneef

      Why I see people fattening their dogs and cats while they see human children as skeletons suffering and starving for food but no one will show a sign of mercy to help? Seems that animals are born freer than a Freeman...
      I love animals but not to the extent that I favor it over human life... It is ok to make all those beauty products exp-erim-ents on animals...but not ok for a religious man to say praise to God before slaughter an animal for food...! That is all about it say praise in few words before the slaughter of the animal ... It is not right to compare it to rituals that is com-pli-cated and long suffering of the animals as pagans or devil Worshipers used to do...although both favored human sacrifice and only recently the have sub-st-it-uted it with animal rituals...

      July 5, 2011 at 8:14 pm |
    • Talbert

      "Why is there so much about humanity to animals but less about humanity to humans ?"

      I sincerely hope that this is a joke. We are not interfering to ensure that an animal has the right to practice religion, we are fighting to ensure that an animal doesn't have to suffer a painful death. Comparing the right for you to practice religious nonsense to the basic right for an animal to not have to suffer, verifies that you are completely delusional.

      And replacing something bad with something perhaps marginally less bad isn't justification for an action (i.e. animal sacrifice over human sacrifice). It just displays stubbornness. The issue is only "com-pli-cated" because of religion. The empirical evidence is quite clear on this one.

      July 6, 2011 at 11:22 am |
    • Muneef

      So how can a hummer on the head be less painful than a slit to the throat?

      July 6, 2011 at 6:42 pm |
    • Talbert

      What? Animals are not conventionally "stunned" by being hit on the head with a hammer. This has nothing to do with the issue whatsoever. Sure your assertion may be true, yet entirely irrelevant. I imagine being desensitized to pain and then having your throat slit is less painful than just having your slit throat. That is the issue at hand.

      July 7, 2011 at 12:33 pm |
  2. Roland

    Animals have rights as well , we used to have all sorts of things like stoning woman to death or burning witches.
    We don't do that anymore now is that bigotry against Christians and Muslims/Jews? I guess so.
    But only those who practice such things.We want animals to be humanely slaughtered which requires them to be stunned so they are not concious.Society is simply changing as it has done throughout the centuries what was acceptable in the name of religion 400 years ago is no longer acceptable today.Also many Muslims and Jews don't even agree that stunning is not allowed or that meat is only halal or kosher if the animal has suffered.

    July 5, 2011 at 3:35 pm |
  3. Freethinksman

    There might be a real answer as to the question of the most humane way to slaughter. But it isn't going to come from the knowledge about the nervous and circulatory systems of animals that people had 4,000 years ago. Religion offers hypothesized answers to questions which science has yet to answer. Where science has proven a fact, religion should take a step back and make room for truth.

    July 5, 2011 at 10:58 am |
    • Talbert

      Well said. I'd take the advice from a scientist over a burning bush any day. I wish more people could say the same. Religion can justify anything.

      July 7, 2011 at 12:35 pm |
  4. Muneef

    Another blog post answer was that I liked so much being full of wisdom and with clear vision of thinking:

    I'm a vegetarian, but when given a choice of which I think is more humane: Halal/Kosher (since they are almost the same) vs. the normal, tortureous way animals are killed for meat in America, I would say the Halal/Kosher way.
    A clean slit across the neck, and quick death.
    People should support halal/kosher way of getting meat. Muslim/Jewish or not.
    July 4, 2011 at 11:18 am | Report abuse | Reply

    July 4, 2011 at 5:24 pm |
    • Muneef

      Real Worship in Islam ;

      The concept of worship in Islam is misunderstood by many people including some Muslims. Worship is commonly taken to mean performing ritualistic acts such as prayers, fasting, charity, etc. This limited understanding of worship is only one part of the meaning of worship in Islam. That is why the traditional definition that includes almost everything in any individual's activities. The definition goes something like this, "Worship is an all inclusive term for all that Gods love of external and internal sayings and actions of a person." In other words, worship is everything one says or does for the pleasure of Allah. This, of course, includes rituals as well as beliefs, social activities, and personal contributions to the welfare of one's fellow human beings.

       [5:2] You shall cooperate in matters of righteousness and piety; do not cooperate in matters that are sinful and evil. You shall observe GOD. GOD is strict in enforcing retribution.


      July 4, 2011 at 5:27 pm |
  5. Muneef


    On the authority of Abu Muhammad al-Hasan ibn 'Alee ibn Abee Taalib (r.a), the grandson of the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w), and the one much loved by him, who said: I memorized from the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w): 

    "Leave that which puts you in doubt for that which does not put you in doubt
    [At – Timidhi]"

    Lessons from the Hadith

    1- It is essential to leave the doubtful things.

    2- Leaving doubtful things protects one's Deen (Religion Beliefs) because if he were to do it and it was Haram (Condemned), it would have harmed him.

    3- It is difficult to live honorably when doing the doubtful because when people see someone doing it, they will no longer respect him. 

    4- One cannot continue doing the doubtful when one knows of an alternative with certainty.

    5- Doubtful things weaken ones Imaan (Faith) and leads to indulge in haram (Condemned)  later.

    6- Halal is enough for a believer with the grace of Allah (s.w.t) so we must avoid doubtful things to protect our deen (Religion Belief)
    He is successful whose heart Allah has made sincere toward faith, whose heart He has made free from unbelief, his tongue truthful, his soul calm, his nature straight, whose ear He has made attentive and his eye observant. The ear is a funnel and the eye is a repository for what the heart learns. He is successful whose heart is made retentive. ( Tirmidhi)

    July 4, 2011 at 12:57 pm |
    • Muneef

      Quotes from the Holy Quran;

      You Shall Not Bear False Witness

      [4:135] O you who believe, you shall be absolutely equitable, and observe GOD, when you serve as witnesses, even against yourselves, or your parents, or your relatives. Whether the accused is rich or poor, GOD takes care of both. Therefore, do not be biased by your personal wishes. If you deviate or disregard (this commandment), then GOD is fully Cognizant of everything you do.

      [4:136] O you who believe, you shall believe in GOD and His messenger, and the scripture He has revealed through His messenger, and the scripture He has revealed before that. Anyone who refuses to believe in GOD, and His angels, and His scriptures, and His messengers, and the Last Day, has indeed strayed far astray.

      [4:137] Surely, those who believe, then disbelieve, then believe, then disbelieve, then plunge deeper into disbelief, GOD will not forgive them, nor will He guide them in any way.

      [4:138] Inform the hypocrites that they have incurred painful retribution.

      [4:139] They are the ones who ally themselves with disbelievers instead of believers. Are they seeking dignity with them? All dignity belongs with GOD alone.

      [4:140] He has instructed you in the scripture that: if you hear GOD's revelations being mocked and ridiculed, you shall not sit with them, unless they delve into another subject. Otherwise, you will be as guilty as they are. GOD will gather the hypocrites and the disbelievers together in Hell.

      July 4, 2011 at 1:18 pm |
  6. Julian

    How about we allow scientists to decide what the most humane way is to kill an animal rather than some barbaric scripture and an undereducated Rabbi's speculation? This represents the worst religion has to offer. The fact that anyone can become an expert on anything, because they spoke to god. In most cases it is relatively benign, but here animals are suffering due to an archaic tradition.

    July 4, 2011 at 10:06 am |
    • Rainer Braendlein

      By the way, according to the Bible, the Christian God has never commanded ritual slaughter. Seemingly the Jews have adopted it from ancient Egyptian pagans.

      Actually ritual slaughter is a crime!

      God loves the animals!

      July 4, 2011 at 10:34 am |
  7. Rainer Braendlein

    Get your first trauma and have a look on the website below!


    ("schaechten" is the German word for ritual slaughter)

    July 4, 2011 at 8:11 am |
  8. justathought

    Normally I would't read all the posts, but someome early on asked a question and nobody came close to answering it. Right now I can't qoute the question directly, but it was something like: Why do the Jews and Musliums have a certain way to kill an animal? It seemed strange to me that no one offered an answer, unless they themselves don't know. I'm not Jew or Muslim, so the best I can answer is to make the meat kosher is to drain all the blood from the animal and by cutting the jugglar vein the heart pumps out almost all the blood. Most people would not like kosher meat; the blood is what gives it the flavor they like. God commanded the Jews not to eat the blood. And I wonder just how many people know about all cancer producing chemials that are used in animals if they would eat the meat. Yes, the USDA and the FDA know about it, but it only shows how corrupt the federal government is. It's the lobbiest that gets them to turn their heads. The same about GMO's–you haven't heard about GMO's? Google it!

    July 4, 2011 at 8:10 am |
    • Rainer Braendlein

      It is sure that the ancient Egyptian pagans practiced ritual slaughter. It is possible that the ancient Jews have adopted ritual slaughter from the Egyptian pagans. In the Old Testament there is no commandment for ritual slaughter. Regarding the whole content of the Bible, it is impossible that God has ever given a commandment for ritual slaughter, because God loves the animals and doesn't want them to suffer infinitely.

      July 4, 2011 at 8:22 am |
    • Parker

      I don't know where you got your info but cancer causing chemicals are used in livestock production in general which includes hormones. It's widely known. This has nothing to do with slaughter methods, so if that's what you thought you were misinformed. People can buy "free range," "hormone-free" meat but it's more expensive. Best to go vegetarian!

      July 4, 2011 at 10:16 am |
  9. Rainer Braendlein

    Ritual slaughter is cruelty to animals! Dr. Werner Hartinger (former surgeon) says that the animals suffer awfully, when they are killed by cutting the throat. By vessels within the spine and by the remaining muscles of the neck the brain is still supported with blood for a while after the cut. First when all blood has left the body, the animal dies. It is really a terrible death for the animal (Hartinger witnessed the death of young lamb (by ritual slaughter). It was so cruelly, he has got a never ending trauma)

    Ritual slaugther is actually a sin. It is a pity that even the Jews practice it. They should know it better. It is high time that the Jews realize their Messiah: the loveable Jesus.

    July 4, 2011 at 7:45 am |
  10. Parker

    In the interest of accuracy I don't know when that Rabbi said that (re earlier post) but they have certainly found pottery shards that specifically relate to Jewish history (even similar phrases) as well as a wall (I forget which one). In the last couple of years. But the shard dates to 12,000 years ago so the time line is wrong.

    Similarly that lost city of Dwarka in India was not just a fancy of the Hindu's imagination. It was found deep under water off the west coast of India ('swallowed up by the sea'), just like they said it was. Carbon dates 14,000 + years ago. They figure it was the start of the end of the ice age and an iceberg hit the coast line and the water rose or something. Given climactic changes, earth shifting etc... things may not be found for a long time or may they be lost for good in many cases.

    About the stunning. If it is more humane than I'm all for it but I read the stunning makes brain particles spread which is linked to mad cow disease. I don't think there are cases in the US tho. The other problem I gather is the animal waking up, which is not only scary but it halts the production line. Let's hope that doesn't happen very much. And yeah I can't wrap my head around hunting.

    I can see why they'd be scared of prejudice tho given the history– I've seen some scary crap on line.

    July 4, 2011 at 1:10 am |
  11. sharky

    So humane treatment of animals is bigotry? Oh good grief. So I guess the illegal poaching of African animals and people fighting the poachers is bigotry too eh. Or how about if a kitten is tossed onto burning bbq for fun by teenagers and people fighting to stop that, that is bigotry as well huh. The humane treatment of animals is not bigotry or else we should simply rename the Humane Society the Bigotry Society. If humane treatment was given to the animals that are being killed then perhaps there wouldn't be much of a problem.

    July 4, 2011 at 12:10 am |
  12. John A.

    Yeah, as if being kosher is so sacred. I know better. I know beef merchants that pay money to have their beef considered kosher with no inspection involved. It's all silly ritualism.

    July 3, 2011 at 5:17 pm |
    • Muneef

      John A.

      You are so very much right and true that this could happen but because of that we can not just give up asking and following our needs but we rather be brave to and expose those cheaters who fear no God and fear no Laws;
      Hadith;  “who cheats us is not one of us”.

      July 3, 2011 at 8:45 pm |
  13. Muneef

    Maybe your religion is a bit archaic and needs to evolve with the rest of mankind.
    July 2, 2011 at 11:47 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    All religion is alien and barbaric. Why is yours so special and exempt?
    July 2, 2011 at 11:22 pm | Report abuse | Reply

    Guess rather than "Maybe or Why" it is better to read to what it does call by reading the chapters and verses of the Quran to be aware more about it and if it is an archaic or not....

    Here you are if have interest...http://www.submission.org/Q-T.html

    July 3, 2011 at 3:17 pm |
  14. 'Nother friend of Wotan...

    I suppose I'l continue my carnivoral – ways until the 'meat / meat by products / alleged meat' industry gets 'just-so-disgusting' that even I, (a former paramedic / firefighter), can't stomach it! ...That said...
    I am reminded of another story by this 'ban on stunning animals prior to slaughter' ritualism...
    There was a Catholic church that was informed one of the children in the congregation was allergic to wheat.
    The parents requested the priest to change the Eucharist wafers composition so as to accomadate this child's nonsense-indoctrination effort.
    The cleric slammed that request, saying he 'wasn't authroized to change the body of Christ' or some such Bull_Waste!
    Another family stopped attending Mass on any regular basis as a result...

    If the child had consumed his weekly nutritional supplment of 'God-Man' vitamins and then had an anaphalactic reaction, leading to the child's death, I suppose Ole' Money-Bag's Ratzinger would have 'ex-cathedralled' his way out of the wrongful death lawsuit, just like he avoids responsibility for all his & his 'non-employee's' crimes!

    July 3, 2011 at 12:34 pm |
  15. Reality

    Reiteration is great learning tool.

    The begining of the end of anything sacred about Judaism, Christianity and Islam:

    "origin: http://query.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=F20E1EFE35540C7A8CDDAA0894DA404482

    "New Torah For Modern Minds

    Abraham, the Jewish patriarch, probably never existed. Nor did Moses. The entire Exodus story as recounted in the Bible probably never occurred. The same is true of the tumbling of the walls of Jericho. And David, far from being the fearless king who built Jerusalem into a mighty capital, was more likely a provincial leader whose reputation was later magnified to provide a rallying point for a fledgling nation.

    Such startling propositions – the product of findings by archaeologists digging in Israel and its environs over the last 25 years – have gained wide acceptance among non-Orthodox rabbis. But there has been no attempt to disseminate these ideas or to discuss them with the laity – until now.

    The United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, which represents the 1.5 million Conservative Jews in the United States, has just issued a new Torah and commentary, the first for Conservatives in more than 60 years. Called "Etz Hayim" ("Tree of Life" in Hebrew), it offers an interpretation that incorporates the latest findings from archaeology, philology, anthropology and the study of ancient cultures. To the editors who worked on the book, it represents one of the boldest efforts ever to introduce into the religious mainstream a view of the Bible as a human rather than divine doc-ument. "

    The notion that the Bible is not literally true "is more or less settled and understood among most Conservative rabbis," observed David Wolpe, a rabbi at Sinai Temple in Los Angeles and a contributor to "Etz Hayim." But some congregants, he said, "may not like the stark airing of it." Last Passover, in a sermon to 2,200 congregants at his synagogue, Rabbi Wolpe frankly said that "virtually every modern archaeologist" agrees "that the way the Bible describes the Exodus is not the way that it happened, if it happened at all." The rabbi offered what he called a "LITANY OF DISILLUSION”' about the narrative, including contradictions, improbabilities, chronological lapses and the absence of corroborating evidence. In fact, he said, archaeologists digging in the Sinai have "found no trace of the tribes of Israel – not one shard of pottery."


    July 3, 2011 at 9:10 am |
    • wtrcat

      the world needs to stop catering to these archaic religions...this is 2011..you can practice your religion in other ways.

      July 3, 2011 at 12:12 pm |
    • Muneef


      You are right he should....we are free thinkers not like him some religious and anti religious marketing man...haha

      July 3, 2011 at 8:51 pm |
  16. WonderSpring

    The Dutch should concern more about human babies who are being slaughtered by abortion – the West has become a strange world because of secularism.

    July 3, 2011 at 8:09 am |
  17. Malby

    It seems rather amazing to deny that people in the Netherlands have a genuine concern for animals, and instead are acting out of anti-Semitism. It's 2011. You can't stun an animal before killing it? That doesn't sound religious; it sounds barbaric.

    July 3, 2011 at 12:15 am |
    • Muneef

      Yes isn't that like condemning a person to be killed twice once by electrical shock or drug shot and then next by knife slaughter?

      Killing twice? After all we know that those said to be unconscious can still hear and maybe feel every thing even if cannot make a single move!!

      But not sure if given a bullet shot in the head and then slaughtered by knife can be considered acceptable ? After all some times as a hunter you might shoot your pray dead and then get a chance to slaughter it by knife...

      July 3, 2011 at 9:04 pm |
    • Talbert

      The facts are pretty clear on this one. You can't die twice. Maybe in religious scripture this remains possible however.

      How can you compare being shot in the head with a drug shot?

      July 7, 2011 at 12:37 pm |
  18. ChiRomagnon

    Maybe your religion is a bit archaic and needs to evolve with the rest of mankind.

    July 2, 2011 at 11:47 pm |
  19. bhigh

    All religion is alien and barbaric. Why is yours so special and exempt?

    July 2, 2011 at 11:22 pm |
  20. Muneef

    Think there is a silent war against believers world wide harassing them through their beliefs;

    Tajik Children Banned From Mosques
    OnIslam & Newspapers
    Saturday, 18 June 2011 10:19

    July 2, 2011 at 3:11 pm |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.