Just when I think I can’t stand the weather and the food anymore, and start to think about relocating to a place with more sunshine and better restaurants, the Dutch go and do something that makes me realize I’ll never find another place quite as endearingly wacky as The Netherlands.
There’s the eccentric roller blader who streaks down the main road in my neighbourhood on freezing January days, wearing nothing but a parka and a g-string. There’s the time I was having a drink with a friend at an Amsterdam kraker (squatter) cafe when a guy walked in and coolly ordered a beer, sauntered over to a table of his friends to drink it and no one blinked an eye at the fact that he was stark naked. There’s the fact that we have an official political party for animal rights called, (what else?) Party for the Animals, that actually holds two seats in Parliament.
So I have to give an indulgent smile over our latest fiery debate on animal slaughter. Only in Holland, I think, could you get the Jewish and Muslim communities passionately uniting in a common cause and then find their closest allies in Parliament to be the three most conservative Christian parties.
The point of contention is whether ritual animal slaughter should be banned here, as it is in several other European countries. The animal rights party is saying “yes, ban it becuase it’s much crueller than killing animals after stunning them”; and the religious parties, are shouting “no, because banning ritual slaughter is tantamount to destroying the fine Dutch tradition of freedom to practice your own religion”.
Either way, it would be funny, if not for the fact that killing animals in a mass industrialized way - with or without recited prayers to accompany - is a pretty unfunny subject.
But still, it’s just one of those typically Dutch stories that makes me think, “OK, so I’ll put up with the rain and the unvarying diet of potoatos. After all, you never know what’s going to pop up next.”