Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The Dutch parliament has passed a bill banning ritual slaughter; that is the killing of animals by bleeding for kosher and halal meat. Naturally, as it impinges on religious beliefs thousands of years old, it has caused uproar with both Muslim and Jewish communities. The Jewish community have been given a year to prove that this system of slaughter is no more cruel than having the animal stunned so that it doesn’t experience its own death. I should think this an extremely difficult thing to prove if at all. A Rabbi has said they will just stop eating meat which can’t be a bad thing. Millions of animals won’t suffer an early death and it will be one up to the vegetarians who are forever fighting a losing battle.

Now those of you who have kept up with these blogs know by now that I have absolutely no religious convictions of any kind. I doubt mankind will ever be free of these superstitions, more’s the pity. It would seem for most people that they are a necessity in coping with the vicissitudes and pain of living or an effort to keep recalcitrants on the straight and narrow. So, as I am an atheist, a non-believer, I do not apologise to anyone for my thoughts and comments. What has brought this to mind, apart from the mentioning of ritual killing, was the news that the actor Russell Crowe has apologised for criticising the ritual of circumcision on his Twitter account. He said the procedure was "barbaric and stupid" but later lessened his comments by writing: "I'm very sorry that I have said things on here that have caused distress. My personal beliefs aside, I realise that some will interpret this as me mocking rituals and traditions of others. I am very sorry," saying later that his comments were insensitive, especially when he railed against circumcision as an aid to hygiene.

I see absolutely no reason for Crowe to apologise. This is what he believes and he is entitled to say it. What is more I entirely agree with him. Circumcision in the twenty first century is an anachronism unless necessitated for medical reasons - phimosis. In the same way, tradition or no tradition, ritual slaughter is out of date and the Dutch parliamentarians are the first to do something about it. In his tweet to filmmaker Eli Roth Crowe wrote, "I love my Jewish friends, I love the apples and the honey and the funny little hats but stop cutting your babies." In a statement Roth defended Crowe against his detractors "Russell and I are great friends, and often tease each other publicly. Not one person from any media outlet contacted me to ask if it was a joke or not before running their vicious stories, which is indicative of a much more serious problem," Roth added. How true that is.

Now San Francisco voters are due to face a proposal in November on banning circumcision for under-18s. Would this be a step in the right direction to protect babies and adolescents who have no say in what happens to their own bodies? Opponents say such a move would violate the rights of groups including Jews and Muslims who consider the practice a sacred religious rite. Circumcision of babies, don’t tell me they feel no pain, and adolescent boys is barbaric, almost as barbaric as the circumcision of females which still takes place in various parts of the world. Imagine major surgical procedure on the most sensitive part of the body without anesthetic carried out in the most primitive of conditions. And, religion or no religion, hygiene or no hygiene, tribal custom or no tribal custom, circumcision can lead to serious complications that hospitals try to set right, unfortunately not always successfully.

On a lighter note to quote an old joke told me many years ago by a Jewish friend – two men standing at the urinal, one turns to the other and says, ‘You were circumcised by Rabbi Greenberg?’ ‘Yes,’ says the other, ‘how do you know?’ ‘Rabbi Greenberg is cross-eyed and you’re pissing on my foot.’

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