Halal school meals plan to be put to all councillors

A final decision on whether Lancashire County Council will stop supplying non-stunned halal meat for school meals will now be taken by all of the authority's members.

Friday, 24th August 2018, 1:12 pm
Updated Saturday, 25th August 2018, 11:40 am
Councillors will have the final say on whether meat which has not been stunned before slaughter can still be provided to schools.

The long-running controversy appeared to have been settled last month, after cabinet members voted through a plan to provide only meat which had been stunned prior to slaughter.

There are differing interpretations in the Muslim community of what constitutes 'halal' and the Lancashire Council of Mosques (LCM) threatened legal action when the proposal was first put forward last year.

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County hall then carried out a further consultation, but cabinet members came to the same conclusion.

Now, all councillors will have their say at a meeting of the full council in October. That will see the re-staging of what was an ill-tempered debate held a year earlier, which also approved the policy change.

During that meeting, council leader Geoff Driver was accused of causing "a religious bun-fight" and he said some opposition members should be "ashamed" for playing politics with the issue.

Speaking about today's announcement, Abdul Qureshi, chair of the LCM, said it was a "shambles" that decisions were being made and then "ripped up".

"Why didn't [the council] set up a commission to enquire about the issue properly?" Mr Qureshi asked. "I would like to know whether anybody [involved in the decision] has been to a slaughterhouse and looked at the process for themselves.

"This is having a deep impact on the cohesion of society and causing deep resentment in our hearts," Mr. Qureshi added.

Under the proposal, poultry would still be able to be slaughtered without stunning, on the basis that there is a risk of the stunning process killing birds outright. Schools are also free to source their school meals from any provider they choose and do not have to use the county council.

County Cllr Driver said of the forthcoming debate: "We supply halal meat to a small number of schools where it is served in dishes as one of a number of options able to be chosen by students whose parents have specifically requested it. "The contract becoming due for renewal gave us the opportunity to consider the animal welfare issues surrounding the supply of unstunned halal meat, and we held a public consultation so that cabinet could consider all the impacts before making their decision. "Cabinet appropriately considered the report and reached a decision under the council's procedures, however following recent communication with the Lancashire Council of Mosques we have given further consideration to the strength of feeling on both sides of the debate, and I have asked that council now be asked to take the decision."

The meeting will take place on 18th October.