Religion, Animals, and Racialization: Articulating Islamophobia through Animal Ethics in The Netherlands
2. Researching the Dutch Case: Stressing Religion, Overlooking Racialization
“One should imagine what ghettos will arise from obsolete, and for us dangerous, immigrants, if we accept not only their gruesome slaughtering habits, but also their discrimination against women, their patriarchal-authoritarian pretensions, their subjugation of children, their tribal feuds. Why accept from newcomers what we ourselves have tidied up in customs and laws?”—Anton Constandse (Socialistische Partij 1983, p. 17, italics added)
3. Tracing Islamic Slaughter
- Gratuitous and exclusive references to Islamic slaughter, Islam, or Muslims;
- Appeals to civilization and accusations of barbarism;
- Dystopian warnings of Islamization;
- Invocations of Judeo-Christian fraternity.
3.1. Gratuitous and Exclusive Mentions of Islamic Slaughter
“Can you explain why you continue to allow halal slaughter without stunning, while in other countries the slaughter of animals without stunning has long been banned?”10—Standing Committee for Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality of the Lower House
“My final comments concern ritual slaughter, halal meat and iftar meals. I would like to hear the minister’s opinion here. What can we do about this severe forms of animal abuse?”11—MP Dion Graus, PVV
“We also ask the minister whether he is prepared to ban slaughter without stunning. A growing number of Muslims finds unstunned slaughter unacceptable. To underline once more, we do not object ritual slaughter, provided that it is accompanied by prior stunning and the label states that it concerns halal meat.”12—MP Marianne Thieme, PvdD
“If the time of 40 s is exceeded, the animal must still be anesthetized. How does the State Secretary see this in practice? Will someone stand with a stopwatch? Is bish malla allah akbar called, after which time starts and you have to be ready with your knife als de drommel to cut off the animal’s neck?”13—Senator Marjolein Faber-van de Klashorst, PVV
“How do the introducers [of the private member’s bill] think they can make enforcement manageable? After all, nobody finds scenes of illegal slaughter on small balconies desirable.”15—MP Henk van Gerven, SP
“Meanwhile, animals are ritually slaughtered in small flats three high behind.”16—MP Dion Graus, PVV
3.2. Animal Welfare Is a Marker of Civilization
“It is increasingly accepted that animals should have a decent life and that they should be spared unnecessary suffering. See the justified discussions about intensive animal farming, livestock transport, mink breeding and the abuses in regular slaughter. That is deserved attention. In a civilized and developed country, we should not only treat each other decently, but we should also give animals a decent life.”17—MP Martijn van Dam, Labour Party (PvdA)
“Rejection of the bill and thus the implicit acceptance of the proposed covenant stops the time, at 40 s. That is not appropriate in a society that strives for compassion and the next step in civilization.”18—MP Marianne Thieme, PvdD
“The question remains whether we want such scenes of slaughter [religious slaughter] in a civilized country like The Netherlands. Gandhi already started from the thesis that the civilization of a country can be measured by the way in which animals are treated.”19—Senator Marjolein Faber-van de Klashorst, PVV
“According to many today does the treatment of animals reflect the level of civilization of a society and of a culture. Cruelty to animals is rightly regarded as barbaric, and not appropriate in a civilized society. (…) This justifies a ban on ritual slaughter without stunning.”21—MP Marianne Thieme, PvdD
3.3. Islamic Slaughter as a Vehicle of Islamization
“We are heading for the end of European and Dutch society as we know it (…) Many Dutch people (…) see the Islamization of The Netherlands every day. (…) They are fed up with headscarves, those burqas, that ritual slaughter of animals, of honor killings, of blaring minarets and shrieking imams, of female circumcision, of hymen repair operations, of the mistreatment of gays, of Turkish and Arabic in the bus and train and in the folders at the town hall, of that halal meat at supermarkets (…) luckily there is still hope. The majority of Dutch people are aware of the fact that Islam is a danger.”23—MP Geert Wilders, PVV, italics added
“Following a recent hearing on slaughter stunning methods, I would like to request an emergency debate, because the increasing Islamization in this country seems to affect not only the people but also the animals.”24—MP Dion Graus, PVV
“Do you share the opinion that the barbaric slaughter of animals does not belong in The Netherlands? (…) Do you share the opinion that allowing halal baby food [in hospitals] further Islamizes healthcare and that this should be stopped?”25—MP Fleur Agema, PVV
3.4. Appeals to Judeo-Christianity
“The Jewish religion existed long before European civilization. When we still walked around in bearskins, at least our forefathers, animals were already being treated with respect and care, in accordance with Jewish rites.”27—MP Henk Jan Ormel, CDA
How things can change. Rabbi Evers writes the following in this context. Long before civilization had taken root in Western Europe and the Batavians still gambled away their wives in animal skins and built dolmens here, the Torah had already given many guidelines for our interaction with animals. Now the initiator of the bill wants to make this impossible, precisely by appealing to our civilization and with the accusation of unnecessary animal suffering, to make the unstunned ritual slaughter of animals impossible. The importance lies in that last word. How things can change! The Netherlands has achieved maturity by growing up in the Judeo-Christian tradition. That is an important principle for our [Parliamentarian] group informing our assessment of the private member’s bill.”28—MP Elbert Dijkgraaf, SGP, italics added
“For Jews, there is the additional argument that ritual slaughter without stunning has been permitted in our country for centuries, with the exception of the 1940s and ‘45s.”29—Senator Gerrit Terpstra, CDA
“… in naming itself as what faces Islam, “Europe” hides itself from itself by claiming to have a name and a face independently of Islam. This self-constitution is not only fundamentally related to the question of “religion” in its divisions. It carries with it in unavoidable ways the division between Judaism and Islam, the distinction of Jew from Arab”.(p. xxii, italics added)
4. Unwilling Companions: Religion, Race, and Animals
Data Availability Statement
Conflicts of Interest
Handelingen, TK 45, 1 March 2007.
The direction of the political debate on the new bill may differ from the 2008–2012 debate, as three new parties have entered Parliament since. Namely, the populist radical-right party Forum for Democracy (FvD), which has expressed its support for the bill; DENK (“Think”), which has made discrimination against religious and cultural minorities one of its main concerns and opposes the bill; and BIJ1 (“Together”) which combines strong positions on antiracism with an animal rights agenda. However, the exact position of the latter on religious slaughter remains currently unclear.
See Deckha (2012) for a discussion on the relevance of race for feminist inquiries into the non-human. To consider the relevance of antiracism for animal liberation, see Ko and Ko (2017) and Ko (2020). To explore the challenges posed by a connected feminist, antiracist, and animal liberatory political project in The Netherlands and Belgium, see Jung (2021).
When occupied by Nazi Germany or under the influence of rampant anti-Semitism, multiple European countries banned Jewish slaughter in the 20th century (e.g., Germany and The Netherlands). Animal advocacy at times interlaced with anti-Semitic political agendas, and the exact relationship between the two deserves an in-depth study of its own (but see Wynot 1971; Metcalf 1989; Hornshøj-Møller and Culbert 1992; Brantz 2002; Tyaglyy 2004; Lavi 2007; Mesmer 2007; Collins 2010; Plach 2015 on the historical entanglements between antisemitism and campaigns against religious slaughter in Europe). For now, it suffices to mention that since the 19th and 20th centuries, Switzerland (1893), Norway (1928), Finland (1934), and Sweden (1937 for cattle, 1989 for poultry) require pre-cut or concurrent stunning (for both Jewish and Islamic slaughter). Around the turn of the millennium, we see another surge in legal interventions, with Estonia (2001), Austria (2004), Latvia (2009), and Greece (2017) mandating post-cut stunning. In the same period, Denmark (2014) and Belgium (2019, Wallonia and Flanders) set a pre-cut stunning requirement, and Slovenia (2012) banned the practice altogether. Poland banned unstunned religious slaughter in 2013, but the country’s constitutional court overturned that law a year later. Luxembourg and Germany both legally intervened in the practice in 1995. They either required pre-cut stunning (Luxembourg) or banned the right to unstunned religious slaughter for Muslims only (Germany). Since 2009, religious communities may apply for an exemption with the Luxembourgian authorities. Islamic slaughter without prior stunning is allowed again in Germany since 2002 (Smith 2007). A political discussion on the permissibility of the practice has emerged since the 2000s in more European countries still, such as The Netherlands, France, the UK, Ireland, and Spain. In 2020, the European Court for Human Rights ruled that EU member states have the obligation to reconcile both religious freedom and animal welfare and that it is within their discretion to disallow unstunned religious slaughter as long as fundamental rights are not violated.
Indonesia declared its independence in 1945, after which a bloody liberation struggle ensued, lasting for four years. Hence, the exact year of Indonesia’s independence remains a disputed topic.
Leading up to the first Meat Inspection Act in 1922, Dutch animal advocacy groups already lobbied against the possibility of a religious exemption from the stunning requirement out of animal welfare considerations. At the time, this solely affected Jewish slaughter.
Historically, the Dutch animal advocacy movement has had a fraught relationship with racism and extreme-right politics. For example, in the 1970s and 1980s, the environmentalist group “Ecological Movement” was outspoken on the supposed “overcrowding” of the planet, immigration, and animal welfare issues (including religious slaughter). Some members of this group were active in the Animal Liberation Front, too (AIVD 2004). Additionally, one of their prominent members, Alfred Vierling, was active in extreme-right political parties, e.g., the Centrumparty, Centrumdemocrats, and Dutch Block (Shadid and van Koningsveld 1992).
This research design prevents me from studying the contributions of other actors who took an interest in the topic, e.g., representatives of Muslim and Jewish organizations, animal advocates, veterinarians, scientists, etc. They, for the most part, contributed to societal discussions on the matter outside Parliament. I opt to focus on the speech by political parties during Parliamentarian deliberations, as those parties are in a position of considerable power, being the ones who ultimately decide to accept or reject the proposed bill. Consequently, Parliamentarian political parties’ contributions, in particular, carry a lot of weight and responsibility when it comes to defining a political issue, with possibly huge societal reverberations.
Kamerstuk, 28286/29683, nr. 96, 21 January 2008.
Kamerstuk, 28 286, nr. 233, 30 September 2008.
Handelingen, 30800-XIV, TK 22, 5 December 2006.
Handelingen, 31571, EK 32, nr. 3, 12 June 2012.
Handelingen, 31571, TK 54, item 4, 17 February 2011.
Handelingen, 30409, 15 February 2007.
Handelingen, 31571, TK 96, 22 June 2011.
See notes 13 above.
Handelingen, 31571, EK 12, 13 December 2011.
The importance of the category of the non-human animal for the history of European colonial empires and their afterlives is rarely acknowledged, particularly in comparison to the vast amount of postcolonial scholarship on the complex figuration of race, religion, gender, and sexuality in colonial projects of racial hierarchization (Deckha 2013). Yet, there is a growing transdisciplinary academic effort to consider the figuration of the non-human animal in European colonial imperialism and the postcolonial era (e.g., Shadle 2012; Few and Tortorici 2013; Sivasundaram 2015; Roy 2015; Montford and Taylor 2021; Samanta 2021; Sinha and Baishya 2020).
Kamerstuk, 31 571, nr. 4 herdruk, 2 June 2009.
Handelingen, 30800-VI, nr. 115, 6 September 2007.
Handelingen, TK 87, 26 May 2009.
Aanhangsel, 2309, 16 April 2008.
In 2017, the FvD entered the Lower House, too, and has since disseminated similar rhetoric.
Handelingen, 31571, TK 54, 17 February 2011.
See notes 27 above.
See notes 19 above.
Appeals to the Judeo-Christian myth for the purpose of targeting Islam in 21st-century Europe have been well documented. It fuels right-wing politics, Christian conservativism, and conservative nationalism around the continent (Morieson 2021; Molle 2018; Vollaard 2013; Carr 2006). In these invocations, Europe is imagined as a beacon of secular, humanist, and liberal values that supposedly originated in the continent’s Judeo-Christian past (Kluveld 2016). Critical scholarship has demonstrated that political secularism may cloak the enduring relevance of race for Europe, including the manifold interconnections between race and religion (Anidjar 2006; Fadil 2016; Topolski, forthcoming).
I am indebted to Martijn de Koning for this insight.
See Jackson (2020) for a critique on the primacy given to the human/animal binary within critical animal studies and posthumanism, which Gross’ argument seems to mirror. Contrarily, Jackson argues that “human” and “animal” categories emerged in Western thought in relation to the simultaneous intervention of the notion of “blackness”. Antiblack violence is, for Jackson, therefore not secondary to and deriving from the human/animal binary, but constitutes that binary.
The classification scheme of “humanity” has historically been interlaced with registers of race, gender, sexuality, disability, and class, so much so that “the human” has never been a stable category and may exclude “humans” too (e.g., racialized or disabled persons, women, gay, transgender, and poor people).
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Jung, M. Religion, Animals, and Racialization: Articulating Islamophobia through Animal Ethics in The Netherlands. Religions 2022, 13, 955. https://doi.org/10.3390/rel13100955
Jung M. Religion, Animals, and Racialization: Articulating Islamophobia through Animal Ethics in The Netherlands. Religions. 2022; 13(10):955. https://doi.org/10.3390/rel13100955Chicago/Turabian Style
Jung, Mariska. 2022. "Religion, Animals, and Racialization: Articulating Islamophobia through Animal Ethics in The Netherlands" Religions 13, no. 10: 955. https://doi.org/10.3390/rel13100955