Amsterdam – Jonathan Sigal is a shochet that slaughters animals for the consumption of the relatively small kosher community in the city. Sigal never understood the fuss of such a relatively small kosher slaughter business. Like other European countries, the Netherlands has made several attempts at curtailing shechita, including banning the export of kosher meat to reduce the number of animals that are slaughtered kosher. Without that ability, it certainly does not pay for an abattoir to allow kosher slaughter. In Belgium, the Jewish community has commenced legal action following bans on kosher slaughter from the country’s two largest regions – Wallonia and Flanders. In France, a slowly shrinking population of kosher-eating Jews, many who have made Aliya to Israel in recent years, is also creating doubt about the future. Still France with 500,000 Jews may not be in the same imminent danger as Holland and Belgium where a total of 90,000 Jews live. In fact, it may very well be that France will eventually become the source of kosher beef for some of these countries, that is if the country does not insist on stunning the animals first, which Muslims seem to be capitulating to, leaving Jews to fend for themselves. In 2013, the Polish parliament also banned the practices, though the prohibition has since been partially overturned. Slaughter without stunning is now illegal in five European Union member states – Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Lithuania and Slovenia — as well as three other non-EU countries in Western Europe: Norway, Switzerland and Iceland. EU members Austria and Estonia enforce strict supervision of the custom that some Jews there say make it nearly impossible to have shechita.
The big question for many European Jews is whether the restrictions on shechita are in fact the handwriting on the wall that the millennia presence of Jews in Europe may be coming to a slow but painful conclusion. Many Jewish leaders hope not!