Muslim slaughterhouse sues State for instructions on slaughtering
Shortly before last month’s Feast of Sacrifice, a Muslim slaughterhouse instituted preliminary relief proceedings against the Dutch State. The slaughterhouse wanted to get rid of the imposed slaughter instructions drawn up by the Netherlands Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority (NVWA). If the slaughterhouse were to follow these instructions on slaughter, its meat would no longer be halal. In this remarkable case, entrepreneurship and religion played important roles. The Dutch lawyer Heleen Ceelen explains the ruling.
Jewish or Muslim ritual slaughter versus NVWA
In principle, Dutch law does not permit killing animals without prior stunning (for commercial production). Exceptions are made for the slaughter of animals according to Jewish or Muslim rites. However, in these exceptional cases, further rules must be satisfied. Designated veterinarians, among others, monitor compliance with these rules on behalf of the NVWA.
Slaughtering according NVWA instructions means no halal meat
Shortly before the Feast of Sacrifice, the NVWA indicated that it would maintain its view that slaughterhouses must follow the instructions of the supervising veterinarian. These instructions included that slaughterhouses must still stun animals that do not lose consciousness within three minutes after an incision has been made in the neck. This intervention means that the animals do not produce halal meat.
Conflict between freedom of religion and fair play
In short, the slaughterhouse’s lawyer believed that the time limit is contrary to Article 9, Paragraph 1 ECHR; the protected freedom of religion. In practice, only 15 % of the large and healthy animals specifically selected for the Feast of Sacrifice lose consciousness within 3 minutes. The instruction would be in anticipation of a yet to be developed covenant; it would be contrary to the principle of fair play and to what is generally accepted in society. In its own words, the slaughterhouse could have been confident that it was already using the correct working method.
Instruction not unjustified; request refused
The Dutch Court ruled that the State had argued that a death struggle of more than 3 minutes is unacceptable, which was not contradicted, and had disputed with adequate substantiation that when applying the time limit, 85 % of the animals still needed to be stunned. The slaughterhouse’s lawyer had inadequately reasoned its arguments. The provisional relief court did not consider the time limit a restriction for the ritual slaughter process, and found that the slaughterhouse could have expected the instruction as a result of various incidents and the subsequent permanent control introduced by the NVWA. For this reason, the instruction cannot be classified as indisputably incorrect or wrong.
AMS Advocaten for Dutch preliminary relief proceedings
In the Netherlands, if rapid relief is required, as in the present case, preliminary relief proceedings can be filed with the provisional relief court for urgent matters. AMS Advocaten regularly acts in civil dispute cases in preliminary relief proceedings.