I am a kosher pescatarian: I don’t eat animals and do eat those fish permitted by Jewish law. I say this for three reasons. First: I feel guilty about eating fish, and admitting it makes me feel less so; second, I feel self-righteous about not eating meat, and proclaiming it makes me feel more so; and third, to introduce my response to a newly proposed Dutch law requiring that all animals killed in Dutch slaughterhouses be stunned into unconsciousness before slaughtering. Jewish and Muslim law do not allow stunning, so this law will outlaw kosher and halal slaughtering in the Netherlands.
The bill is supported by right wing anti-immigrant parties who want to make the Netherlands inhospitable to Muslims (Jews are collateral damage) in coalition with animal rights activists who would like to end the slaughter altogether, but are happy for any measure they believe will alleviate animal suffering.
Kosher and halal slaughtering also seeks to minimize animal suffering, so why can’t secular and religious authorities work together to achieve a common goal? If stunning actually alleviates suffering, why not make it part of kosher and halal slaughtering? Why do we Jews expend untold amounts of energy and ingenuity to get around Sabbath laws we find annoying, and none at all when it comes to killing our fellow sentient beings? I suggest we have lost our moral compass, and have made a fetish of Iron Age technology.
This is the danger of all religions that look to the past not only for guidance (which is often helpful) but also for authority (which is often unhelpful and even wicked). When we allow ancient mores and technologies to trump those of our own time (unless it inconveniences us, in which case they are suddenly deemed irrelevant), we have trapped ourselves in a religion that may survive but cannot thrive.
I welcome the challenge to kosher and halal slaughtering. I urge rabbis and imams to find more compassionate ways to kill our fellow creatures, and challenge them to take the next step and proclaim the eating of meat contrary to the wills of Yah and Allah. Just don’t outlaw fish anytime soon; I’m having tuna for dinner.