The Dutch government and the Organization of Jewish Communities in the Netherlands reached an agreement regarding the continuation of ritual animal slaughter, known in Hebrew as shechita, in the hopes of closing a chapter on a long-running legislative battle to outlaw the practice.

Called an ‘historic covenant’ by the Jewish organization, which goes by the acronym NIK, the agreement allows for ritual slaughter as well as for a veterinarian to anesthetize an animal if it is not unconscious within 40 seconds after its slaughter. In such cases, which Rabbi Binyomin Jacobs, chief rabbi of the Inter-Provinicial Chief Rabbinate, said are rare within the framework of properly-executed Jewish ritual slaughter, the meat of the animal would not be certified as kosher.

Other requirements of the agreement, which dovetail with Jewish law but are intended to be embraced by Muslim communities in the Netherlands as well, include that the knife used must be sharp and without blemish and that the ritual slaughterer be a qualified professional. According to Jacobs, a Chabad-Lubavitch emissary, the provisions were designed to both satisfy the concerns of those who wanted to limit possible animal suffering and the requirements of Jewish law, which deems the stunning of animals prior to slaughter as rendering the meat not kosher.

The Amsterdam Chief Rabbinate gave its approval to the Jewish legal aspects of the agreement.

“We wanted to show that we care about the well-being of animals,” explained Jacobs. “And we also wanted to show that freedom of religion has to be kept.”

The agreement comes more than a year after a bill was proposed in the Dutch Parliament prohibiting the slaughter of animals that were not stunned prior to killing. The bill was debated once it reached the Upper House in December. Last Tuesday, it was brought up again, and a vote on it is expected this Tuesday. The NIK believes the bill will not garner a two-thirds majority.

The shechita agreement was signed by Dutch Minister of Agriculture Henk Bleker, NIK president Jacob Hartog, and representatives of the kosher slaughter industry and the Muslim community. (Last year’s proposed ban of ritual animal slaughter also threatened the continuation of traditional Muslim ritual slaughtering method known as halal).

“We have always fought against the perception that the Jewish community did not care about animal welfare,” said Hartog. “This agreement is further proof that this criticism on the part of the authors of the bill that demanded a stop to shechita violates the truth.”