THE HAGUE - Jewish and Muslim representatives Thursday appealed to Dutch lawmakers not to enforce plans requiring animals to be stunned before halaal and kosher slaughtering rituals.
"We are against any form of stunning because it's against our religion," Yusuf Altuntas, president of the CMO -- an organisation that links the Muslim community with the Dutch government -- told a parliamentary commission.
"One of the first measures taken during the Occupation (during World War II) was the closing of kosher abattoirs," Dutch Chief Rabbi Binyomin Jacobs added during the debate in The Hague.
Dutch law required animals to be stunned before being slaughtered but made an exception for ritual halaal and kosher slaughters.
The country's Party for Animals (PvdD) which holds two seats in the 150-seat Dutch parliament, has submitted a proposal, if implemented, would see this exception abolished.
Dutch media widely reported that the PvdD's proposal was expected to get a majority nod from parliamentarians, but a timeframe was not given.
"The animals suffer more and are more distressed if they are not stunned," Esther Ouwehand, a PvdD parliamentarian told AFP.
"By getting this modification in the law, we hope to inspire other countries," she added, pointing out that in Norway and Sweden these measures had already been taken.
More than two million animals -- mainly sheep and chickens -- were being subjected to ritual slaughter every year in the Netherlands, the PvdD added.
Abdelfattah Ali-Salah, director of Halal Correct, the organisation which issues halaal certificates in the country, however called the figure "inexact".
He said some 250,000 animals were slaughtered yearly without being stunned beforehand.
Jewish and Muslim representatives Thursday insisted ritual slaughter respected the animals' welfare, notably restriction methods used to limit suffering and that those slaughtering received expert training.
"If we no longer have people who can do ritual slaughter in the Netherlands, we will stop eating meat," Chief Rabbi Jacobs said.
They did however offer to implement some measures which they said would ease the animals' suffering, especially better controls in abattoirs where ritual slaughters were performed and an improvement in conditions under which animals were being transported.
Several organisations in France, among them the Brigitte Bardot Foundation, in January launched a poster campaign, reporting conditions in which animals were killed during ritual slaughter.
Image: Kristine Paulus / via Flickr