A cow.
A cow. Photo by Yuval Tebol
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Dutch Agriculture Minister Hans Bleker signed an agreement with Jewish and Muslim religious leaders and slaughterhouses which will prevent a ban on ritual slaughter.

Under the agreement signed Tuesday, animals can continue to be ritually slaughtered as long as they lose consciousness within 40 seconds of their throats being cut. After 40 seconds they must be stunned, which is prohibited under both Jewish and Islamic law.

The agreement comes following Animal Rights Party leader Marianne Thieme withdrawal last December of a bill that would have required stunning of all animals before slaughtering, after a majority of senators expressed their objection to the ban on kosher slaughter, or shechitah. The measure had passed the lower house of the Dutch parliament in June 2011.

Dutch law had required animals to be stunned before slaughter but made an exception for Muslim halaal and Jewish shechitah. The Animal Rights Party says that more than two million animals are ritually slaughtered annually.

The European Union requires animals to be stunned before slaughter but makes exceptions for religiously mandated ritual slaughter. Nevertheless, ritual slaughter is banned in Luxembourg, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland.