A Bill To Ban Kosher Slaughtering Practices

The Netherlands is poised to vote to require animals to be stunned before they are killed, which would prohibit the sale of meat by Muslim and Jewish butchers who follow traditional slaughtering practices.  Muslim and Jewish leaders have wrung an amendment from the bill’s sponsors that would permit a five year grace period if the butcher can show that the “religious … method of slaughter causes no more pain than industrial slaughtering.”  The Netherlands would join a handful of other countries which prohibit the ritual slaughter of animals.

Matt Yglesias, whose blogging brought this to my attention, thinks that although “our political culture is hardly unaffected by bigotry or oft-violent nationalism, I’m pretty confident this would never fly here.”  I agree – at a national level – but am not so sure at a local or regional level.  As excitement about the destined-to-be-defeated circumcision ban in San Francisco illustrated, astute commentators think that the courts might not distinguish jewish or muslim claims for religious “exceptions” from generally applicable rules from previous precedents that ruled on the rights of Native Americans and Amish citizens.  (This strikes me as inaccurate – though, of course, it’s what would happen if Judges didn’t permit their biases influence their perceptions of risks and facts.)  Moreover, mainstream acceptance of foreign religious or cultural practices is (forgive the pun) skin deep – as illustrated by this disturbing comment thread at Prawfsblawg.

Yglesias is right that there’s zero likelihood of federal action motivated by vegan interest groups. That said, I can imagine some crunchy and “progressive” American town passing an ordinance exactly like this one, and thereby prohibiting Halal or Kosher butchers from operating within the city’s limits.  (Call it the Portland-Stunning-Mandate.)   Would the PSM pass constitutional review or RFRA?  Dorf’s analysis of the circumcision ban, here, suggests that the answer is “probably not.”  But maybe the analysis is different, as practicing jews and muslims don’t need to be carnivores.

(For more on kosher slaughter & whether it produces more suffering than ordinary slaughter, read Dorf.  Actually, you should probably do that even if you don’t much care about this topic.  It’s like reading Volokh, only without the turing tests.)

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