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Lancashire Bans ‘Non-Stun’ Meat From Schools, But 1-in-10 Councils ‘Bow to Hardline Islam’ and Serve Halal

School meals / food UK canteen
Peter Macdiarmid/Getty
LIAM DEACON

Lancashire council voted to not serve unstunned meat in schools Thursday, but around one in 10 UK councils are supplying sharia law-compliant halal meat to schools produced in a way considered cruel by major animal rights groups.

So-called “non-stun” meat is widely thought to cause unnecessary suffering to animals, and there is no obligation on schools or councils to inform parents of children when it is served.

According to new research by the National Secular Society (NSS), around 18 councils are supplying at least 140 schools with non-stunned meat – most of which are not Islamic faith schools.

The report comes as Lancashire County Council moved to end the supply of non-stunned meat to schools after a long political battle in the area including calls by Muslim groups for boycotts.

The council voted in favour of stopping supplied non-stun meat to schools Thursday afternoon, with 49 vote sin favour and 23 against.

Lancashire Council boss Geoff Driver said of the decision: “Today’s decision to ban the provision of meat from animals that were not stunned before they were slaughtered is purely an animal welfare issue. There is no other motivation.

“The county council will now work with the Lancashire Council of Mosques to mitigate against any unwanted and unwarranted consequences of this decision.”

Despite the vote, Lancashire council will continue to provide unstunned poultry meat to schools for now, but will “Undertake further investigations with the Lancashire Council of Mosques into the stunning of poultry before slaughter.”

The RSPCA and British Veterinary Association (BVA) have both slammed non-stun slaughter, with the latter saying it “unnecessarily compromises” the welfare of animals at the time of death.

The European Union bans non-stun slaughter because of animal welfare concerns, but exceptions are made for religious reasons, specifically for some Muslim and Jewish groups.

The NSS said Thursday that “too many councils had bowed to a hardline interpretation of Islam” demanding the government repeal the religious exemption to animal welfare laws.

The NSS sent freedom of information requests to 206 councils, with 18 confirming they supply non-stunned meat to schools, five giving unclear responses indicating they might, 165 insisting they do not supply non-stunned halal, and 40 revealing they do not supply meat for school meals at all.

Certain local authorities – including Kirklees Council in West Yorkshire, Luton Borough Council, Bolton Council, and Leicester Council – were said to “supply meat to large numbers of schools, meaning thousands of pupils may be eating it”.

All halal meat supplied by Bradford Metropolitan District Council and Luton Borough Council must be non-stunned, according to their rules.

In response to the findings of their study, NSS chief executive Stephen Evans condemned the growing unstunned meat industry and the councils that supported it. He said:

A significant number of councils are helping the non-stun slaughter industry to expand the supply of inhumanely slaughtered meat.

If slaughter without stunning is to be permitted, no more animals should be slaughtered under the religious exemption than is absolutely necessary to meet demand.

Councils shouldn’t be supplying meat from non-stun slaughter en masse, particularly when a majority of Muslims are content with pre-stunned meat.

Too many local authorities’ catering policies are favouring those pushing a more hardline interpretation of Islam.

And the UK government should take note of these findings. Councils need support to ensure the meat they supply is killed humanely.

The simplest way to guarantee that is to repeal the unjustifiable religious exemption to the UK’s animal welfare laws. All meat should be slaughtered in line with the advice of vets, not clerics.

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