A move to ban meat from non-stunned animals across schools in Lancashire has been halted after Muslim leaders raised concerns it would create community tensions.
Lancashire County Council made the decision to stop using halal meat in 27 council-run schools in October, saying it was “cruel” not to stun animals before slaughter.
But the Lancashire Council of Mosques is now seeking a judicial review, claiming the authority did not consult adequately over the decision and warning that they would take the council to court if the ban went ahead.
The council has now said the ban will be “put on hold until legal matters are resolved”.
The resolution agreed by the council in October stated 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”.
As part of the decision, animals would 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.
But Lancashire Council of Mosques said the decision, which was due to take effect from December, meant the council would stop providing meals “in accordance with the universal criteria of halal”.
Abdul Hamid Qureshi, acting chief executive of the organisation, told The Independent the vote was “disappointing” and warned the ban was “unnecessary and would be divisive”.
He added that neither the Muslim nor Jewish communities had been properly consulted before the resolution was proposed at council.
“It’s divisive. Lunchtime in schools would become a point of controversy,” he said. “Muslim children would have to start bringing food from home. People would ask why they don’t eat school meals. It would be a continuous debate every day.”
“We think the decision is wrong, and the proper procedure has not been followed. There are proper protocols on consultation and impact on society. There are real issues in legislative law which were breached in this case.
“This is part of our faith, and the county council’s lead has imposed his own thinking in saying it is a ‘cruel’ and ‘abhorrent’ process. If the council had consulted us about their concerns, we could have discussed it and worked with them. He can have the opinions he likes, but he should have the duty of care.”
Lancashire County Council leader Geoff Driver said in response: “We are due to put on hold the new contract for supply of halal meat to schools. We will continue to supply halal meat under the terms of the current contract while the legal matters are resolved.”
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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