Dutch to get 500 “animal cops” — may ban kosher & halal slaughter

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, May 2011:
DEN HAAG, The Netherlands– The politics of assembling the
present Dutch coalition government are expected to put 100 new
“animal cops” on the beat in the Netherlands by the end of 2011, and
to eventually increase the Dutch animal police force to 500 officers.
Dutch coalition politics could also lead to the passage of a
proposed ban on slaughter without pre-stunning, which within the
European Union is done by electroshock for cattle and by carbon
dioxide gassing for pigs and poultry. The proposed Dutch law would
prohibit kosher and halal slaughter, practiced by Jews and Muslims.
Pre-stunning has traditionally been interpreted by most Judaic and
Islamic religious authorities– though some differ–as a violation
of the requirements of Mosaic and Islamic religious law that animals
be conscious when their throats are swiftly cut with a sharp blade.


Kosher and halal slaughter done strictly to rule also
prohibit rough handling of animals, including in transport, and
forbid killng animals within sight of other animals, but these
requirements are never as zealously enforced as the disputed
prohibition of pre-stunning, which in many nations has become a
flashpoint for cultural conflict.
Introduced more than two millennia ago to minimize animal
suffering, kosher and halal slaughter have been targeted for
prohibition in various nations, especially in Europe, since the
early 19th century. The animal advocacy goal was at first just to
introduce pre-stunning as a requirement for all slaughter. At that
time most slaughter in Europe was done by local butchers, who often
used bull dogs to hold cattle by their noses as their throats were
cut.
Amid the early debate over slaughter methods in Britain,
machine tool inventor Lewis Gompertz, who rescued the Royal SPCA of
Britain from bankruptcy in 1828, avoided condoning any form of
slaughter by practicing veganism. This led to his expulsion from the
RSPCA board in 1832 for the alleged offenses of being both a vegan
and a Jew.
The introduction of industrial-scale slaughterhouses in the
mid-19th century led to the accept-ance of pre-stunning in non-kosher
and halal slaughter as an efficiency measure which enabled slaughter
workers to work faster.
Laws requiring pre-stunning, however, were not introduced
to Europe until decades later, amid the anti-Semitic political
climate of the 1930s–as European Jewish Council president Moshe
Kantor reminded Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte in an open letter
asserting that the proposed Dutch ban on slaughter without
pre-stunning would violate the European Convention on Human Rights,
which guarantees religious freedom.
The British pre-stunning requirement, enacted in 1933,
exempted kosher and halal slaughter, as did the U.S. Humane
Slaughter Act, which introduced mandatory pre-stunning to the U.S.
in 1958.
Assessed Toby Sterling of Associated Press, “The far right’s
embrace of the [Dutch anti-kosher and halal slaughter] bill is based
mostly on strident hostility toward the Dutch Muslim population,”
most of whom are of Indonesian ancestry and arrived during the 1990s,
a time of violent civil unrest in Indonesia, which was for 300 years
a Dutch colony. About one million of the 16 million residents of the
Netherlands are Islamic; 40,000 to 50,000 are Jewish.
“The Party for the Animals, the world’s first such party to
be elected to parliament,” continued Sterling, “says humane
treatment of animals trumps traditions of tolerance. Most Dutch favor
a ban,” Sterling reported, “but many centrist parties feel the
issue is a distraction from the more serious issue of abuses at
regular slaughterhouses. One of the two parties in the Cabinet, the
Christian Democrats, opposes the law out of fear for damage to the
country’s international image as a haven of tolerance for religious
minorities. The other, the pro-business VVD Party, has yet to say
which way it will vote.
“If the Netherlands does outlaw procedures that make meat
kosher for Jews or halal for Muslims,” Sterling continued, “it will
be the first country outside New Zealand to do so in recent years.
It will join the Scandinavian and Baltic countries and Switzerland,
whose bans are mostly traceable to pre-World War II anti-Semitism.”
Political momentum for the proposed ban on kosher and halal
slaughter built after the members of the coalition who are promoting
it developed a working relationship in support of expanding the Dutch
“animal police” force. Inspired by the Animal Planet TV program
Animal Cops, which spotlights the work of humane officers in various
U.S. cities, Dutch Party for the Animals founder Marianne Thieme
proposed in late 2010 that 500 officers who were to be cut from the
national police force should be retained to work on animal welfare
issues.

Coalition clout

First winning a seat in Parliament in 2006, the Party for
the Animals “now holds two of the 150 seats in the Dutch House of
Representatives, one seat in the Dutch Senate, and nine seats in
eight provincial governments,” reported Mary Beth Warner of
Associated Press. This is enough to make the Party for the Animals a
power broker in the fragmented Dutch government, especially after
Thieme’s proposal became “reportedly the pet issue of Dion Graus, a
Party for Freedom member of the House of Representatives whose
previous jobs include selling veterinary products,” wrote Warner of
Associated Press. An experienced deal maker, Graus in 2008 won the
repeal of a law excluding pit bull terriers from the Netherlands,
passed in 1993 after pit bulls killed three children.
The Party for Freedom currently holds 24 of the 150 seats in
the House of Representatives–the third largest block of votes.
Founder Geert Wilders “is one of Europe’s most out-spoken and
well-known far-right politicians,” Warner summarized, “known more
for his calls to ban the Koran than for his defense of the puppy next
door.”
Wilders, as part of the price of joining the governing
coalition agreement, sought to retain all 3,000 police officers who
were to have been laid off. The Party for the Animals proposal to
keep 500 coincided well enough with Wilders’ platform that he
incorporated it into the Party for Freedom agenda.
Dutch Ministry of Security and Justice spokesperson Job van
der Sande told Warner that “The new ‘animal police’ will consist of
regular police officers, with the same powers, but with special
training that is still being developed.”
“We think it’s a good idea, of course. As an animal rights
party, we are always in favor of working for animal welfare,”
Thieme told the German news magazine Der Spiegel. “But at the same
time the government is cutting budgets for people to enforce the laws
for animal transport and slaughterhouses. We are afraid that these
animal cops will be only to protect pets and not for livestock,”
Thieme said.

Dutch SPCA

Alleged offenses against animals have been investigated since
1865 by the Dutch SPCA. The Dutch SPCA employs 14 humane officers,
who are assisted by 150 trained volunteers, spokesperson Casper
Schrijver told Warner.
“The paid law enforcement officers have almost the same
training and authority as ordinary police,” former Dutch SPCA
inspector Alexandra Semyonova told ANIMAL PEOPLE. “The difference is
that their training is specialized in the animal health and welfare
laws, and they don’t carry guns or handcuffs. If a search or arrest
has to be made,” Semyonova said, the Dutch SPCA asks regular police
for assistance.
Each paid inspector “is assigned to a county or region of the
Netherlands,” Semyonova explained. “Sometimes one or two are
assigned to a special task, such as tracking transport of live
animals through the European Union for use in the food industry,”
for example “following them day and night as they take horses to
Poland for slaughter or pigs to Italy to be made into ham, watching
whether drivers observe the resting periods the law prescribes, give
the animals water, food and if necessary medical care (or
euthanasia),” and avoid overcrowding.
Under each paid inspector “are teams of local inspectors,”
Semyonova continued. These local inspectors are volunteers, which
doesn’t make them less dedicated or professional in their work. They
receive special training, but they can’t request search warrants or
make arrests. They ask for assistance from their national inspector
or local police if this kind of thing is necessary. The national
inspectors concentrate on farm and industrial animals in their
assigned region,” Semyonova said. “The local inspectors concentrate
on visiting pet animals in the neighborhoods where they live. This
can be a whole city, or a cluster of small towns in a rural area.
“The reason for this division of labor, and for the use of
local volunteers,” Semyonova elaborated, “is that there is always
too much to do. The national inspectors can’t possibly visit every
complaint about a suffering pet. In addition, many pet complaints
are better solved by talking, educating, calling in Social
Services, etc., than by legal repression. These cases eat up time
but don’t necessarily have to be handled by someone with legal
authority to enforce the law.
“Local inspectors are in a position to build networks of
relations with vets in their area and with local police,” Semyonova
said. “It’s an efficient system that works very well–except there
are always too few inspectors for the number of complaints,” because
the volunteers are part-timers.
Assessed Semyonova, “Wilder’s and Graus’s proposal is not
making use of the knowledge present in the field. We could indeed
use another 100 or so authorized law enforcement officers to keep an
eye on business and industrial use of animals. But we don’t need
actual law enforcement officers to do the local task of keeping an
eye on pets. It would be a better use of money to make the local
volunteers into paid employees and provide them with things like cars
and cameras.
“A second good step,” Semyonova suggested, “would be to
change the animal health and welfare law so that the inspectors can
impose administrative fines,” in the same manner that traffic
tickets are issued. “That would mean that an animal abuser could be
fined without the prosecutor’s office and a judge always having to be
involved. It would be the offender who would have to take the step
of asking to see a judge and show that he was wrongly fined.

Possible global effects

Currently on trial in The Netherlands for speech allegedly
inciting hate crimes against Muslims, Geert Wilders and the Party
for Freedom have a high negative profile in much of the Islamic
world–as subjects, for example, of 69 recent articles broadcast by
Al Jazeera, from Qatar, and 51 recent articles in Gulf News.,
published from Dubai. The association of Wilders and the Party for
Freedom with animal welfare, especially the proposed ban on halal
slaughter, may complicate the efforts of animal advocates in some
Islamic nations.
“In my opinion, their point of view can be problematic,”
said Fatemeh Motamedi, who in 2003 founded the Center for Animal
Lovers in Tehran, Iran, but emigrated to Canada in 2006.
Said Egyptian Society of Animal Friends president Ahmed el
Sherbiny, a vegetarian who has led efforts to reform slaughter at the
Bassatin slaughterhouse complex near Cairo, “We just have to wait
and hope there will be no repercussions.”

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