Technically I'm a pescatarian; I eat fish but not meat. Why? That's a big question, with a long answer which I'm not particularly passionate about (practical reason relating to the meat industry rather than any principled objections to eating meat). I've often been called the worst vegetarian in the world, as people see me tasting a little bit of their steak ECT. So It's with great interest and disgust then that I have just watched this video from BBC News.
It seems that through a combination of efforts from anti-Islamic, secularist and animal rights campaigners, a law to ban Halal and Kosher slaughter in the country has been enacted. The ruling will have little effect in practise because it's still permissible to sell halal meat, therefore it will just be brought into the country frozen.
As a supporter of animal rights, it seem's on a completely practical level that the Dutch need to sort their own act out before they make small, pretty and ignorant reactions to religious minorities. This country has one of the worst records in term of factory farming out there; you only need to look at the country of origin on a huge amount of the cheapest pork in the supermarkets to confirm this. Factory farming is actually one of the main reasons I'm a vegetarian. It's disgusting! Don't just take my word for it, Pope Benedict, then Cardinal Ratzinger, said in 2002 that "Animals, too, are God's creatures . . . . Certainly, a sort of industrial use of creatures, so that geese are fed in such a way as to produce as large a liver as possible, or hens live so packed together that they become just caricatures of birds, this degrading of living creatures to a commodity seems to me in fact to contradict the relationship of mutuality that comes across in the Bible."
Even the Catechism of the Catholic Church states that "It is contrary to human dignity to cause animals to suffer or die needlessly." And therein lies the reason I don't think it's acceptable to factory farm, whilst I do, recognising it is slightly crueller, think that Muslims and Jewish people should be allowed to do ritual slaughter. 'It is against human dignity', should actually be the basis and foundation of all animal rights. Only Human beings are created in a unique way in the image and likeness of God, but what then does it say about the way in which we respect this dignity if we cause needless suffering to the rest of his creation. Factory farming is both needless and cruel, therefore it is wrong. Furthermore it should fall upon all Catholics and other people of good will to not support (in this case financially) something which is wrong. Right I'm digressing - back to ritual slaughter!
Given that it is against our human dignity to cause unnecessary suffering to animals, we must also remember that it is against our human dignity to restrict the religious freedoms of others. A balance needs to be found, and remembering that it is crueller rather than cruel in itself to do ritual slaughter, the current situation which exists in most western countries seems adequate. It is normally required that animals should be stunned prior to slaughter, except in religious cases. It should be remembered than any good Muslim Or Jew has a religious motive to cause a minimum of suffering to the animal, whereas a secular employee in an abattoir has nothing but the requirement to ensure the animal is stunned (and many undercover operations show that this is not always followed).
What's particularly disturbing with the change in the law is the motive of this decision, and it's something that we as Catholics should be concerned about as well, as we have increasingly anti-religious and secularised laws being enacted. In part this is racist, and the parallels drawn by the Dutch Chief Rabbi express this most eloquently. This alone would not suffice in what is still overall a very liberal country, therefore 'animals rights' motives are brought into the equation to act as a thin disguise. It's clear than in this most liberal and tolerant country, as with most others, all respect for a persons religious freedoms amount to nothing but the desire to ensure freedom of worship. When such an indifference is combined with hated, or well meaning but misguided intentions we see what bad results come from it.
We see once more the consequences of liberal secularization. Well done Holland.