A democratic decision to ban the sale of non-stun halal meat in Lancashire schools could be blocked after Muslims threatened a judicial review, forcing its continued supply for the time being.
Lancashire County Council voted to stop using the meat in 27 council-run schools, including Church of England and Roman Catholic faith schools, in October 2017.
Currently, up to 12,000 children across the county are served around 1.2 million meals a year containing the shariah-compliant meat, the Burnley Express reports.
Taking the decision, the council agreed with the vast majority of animal welfare groups in saying it was “cruel” and “inhumane” not to stun animals before slaughter.
However, thousands of Muslim children, under instructions from the Lancashire Council of Mosques, quickly threatened to boycott meals in the schools, as they did back in 2012 when a similar restriction was attempted.
The group claimed the issue had been “politicized unnecessarily” and that the ban would “increase Islamophobia and anti-Semitism”.
Now, the Lancashire Council of Mosques is now seeking a judicial review, claiming the local authority did not hold adequate consultations before the decision, and is threatening to take the council to court if the ban is brought in.
Ahead of October’s vote, Conservative council leader Geoff Driver described killing animals without stunning them as “abhorrent”.
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Speaking to BBC Radio Lancashire this week, Mr. Driver said: “If it is felt that we haven’t consulted appropriately before we made the decision we will do that because we clearly don’t want to either break the law or cause the county council any unnecessary expenditure.”
Talking with the Burnley Express, he admitted the authority would be forced to continue supplying the meat whilst the threat of legal action looms.
“We are due to put on hold the new contract for supply of halal meat to schools,” he said. “We will continue to supply halal meat under the terms of the current contract while the legal matters are resolved.”
Halal meat comes from animals killed in accordance with Islamic shariah law, with the throat slit by a single cut whilst Qu’ranic verses are read out.
The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA), which runs an ethical food awareness campaign, says slaughter without pre-stunning causes “unnecessary suffering”.
Stunning of livestock has been mandatory in across the European Union since 1979, but exemptions are made for religious slaughter.
In November 2016, campaigners handed a 100,000 signature petition to Downing Street calling for a ban on halal and kosher slaughter on animal rights grounds.