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Lancashire council bans schools from serving pupils non-stunned halal meat

Muslim community leader tells The Independent that the vote was 'unnecessary and will be divisive' 

Chloe Farand
Friday 27 October 2017 13:09 BST
Lancashire Council passed a resolution to ban non-stunned halal meat from school meals
Lancashire Council passed a resolution to ban non-stunned halal meat from school meals (PA)

Thousands of Lancashire schoolchildren will no longer be served un-stunned halal meat for school meals after it was banned by the county council - a move branded "unnecessary and divisive" by Muslim leaders.

The resolution agreed by the council states that it "recognises and respects the Muslim community's requirements for their food to comply with their religious beliefs", but that it was "concerned that slaughtering animals without stunning them beforehand causes them unnecessary stress and suffering".

The proposal was brought by the Conservative council leader Geoff Driver, who said it is "abhorrent" and "really cruel" to slaughter animals without stunning them first.

As part of the resolution, animals will have to be stunned before they are slaughtered in order for the meat to be served in 27 schools in the county which cater for 12,000 children.

For the time being the ban will not affect chicken meat but the council said further investigation will be carried out into the stunning of poultry before slaughter.

A spokesman for Lancashire County Council said the vote came as the contract to provide non-stunned halal meat was due for renewal.

He added: "The council will now consult with the Lancashire Council of Mosques and others on how this can be implemented whilst still providing meals that comply with the Muslim community's beliefs as well as investigating the stunning of poultry before slaughter."

However, Abdul Hamid Qureshi, acting CEO of the Lancashire Council of Mosques, told The Independent that the vote was "disappointing" and warned the ban was "unnecessary and will be divisive".

Mr Qureshi said neither the Muslim nor Jewish community had been properly consulted before the resolution was proposed at council.

"This is taking away rights from the Muslim and Jewish communities which are allowed by law," he said. "This decision has been imposed on us and it will create controversies and disputes in schools when there was no problem. We are open for consultation but what would have prevented the council from doing it earlier? We should not only be looking at the animals end of life but also at the way they are treated when alive.

He added: "If the consultation phase on how the ban will be implemented goes wrong then some Muslim children will not be able to eat school meals anymore because some Muslims believe that only un-stunned meat is the right meat. People should be able to live their lives according to their believes and that liberty is allowed by law."

During the could debate, Mr Driver insisted that the vote was about animal welfare and refuted the idea this was driven by anti-semitism or islamophobia.

A report to the council's cabinet last month acknowledged that "there is currently no demand for stunned halal meat from any school within the authority's catering service".

It also noted that there is a risk schools may seek alternative providers that may not be accredited suppliers of halal meat.

Halal which in Arabic means "permissible" defines meat which has been slaughtered and prepared according to Islamic law.

Among the criteria for the meat to be halal, the animal must be alive when it is slaughtered.

Under UK law, farm animals are to be stunned before slaughter but there are religious exemption for Jews and Muslims.

Halal accreditation agencies are responsible to ensure companies producing halal meat meet the criteria for the appellation but there are no single UK standards for halal meat.

The Halal Food Authority has decreed that stunning cannot be used to kill an animal but it can be used if an animal survives and is then killed by halal methods.

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