AMSTERDAM, Netherlands - The Dutch parliament voted on Tuesday to ban ritual slaughter of animals, a move strongly opposed by the country's Muslim and Jewish minorities, but left a loophole that could let traditional butchery continue.
The bill by the small Animal Rights Party, the first such group in Europe to win seats in a national parliament, passed the lower house of parliament and must be approved by the upper house before becoming law.
It stipulates that livestock must be stunned before being slaughtered, contrary to the Muslim halal and Jewish kosher laws that require animals to be fully conscious.
"This way of killing causes unnecessary pain to animals. Religious freedom cannot be unlimited," Marianne Thieme, head of Animal Rights Party, said before the vote. "For us religious freedom stops where human or animal suffering begins."
In a rare show of unity, the Netherlands' Muslim and Jewish communities -- about 1 million and 40,000 respectively in a total population of 16 million -- have condemned the proposed ban as a violation of their religious freedom.
European Union regulations require animals to be stunned before slaughter but allow exceptions for ritual slaughter. Sweden, Luxembourg and non-EU members Norway and Switzerland ban ritual slaughter.