Lancashire councillors have decided that in future any halal meat served in schools must be butchered from pre-stunned animals, with the exception of poultry.
Councillors agreed the new policy on the provision of meat in its premises after an lengthy debate today.
The ruling on beef and lamb will take effect when the council’s meat supply contract is renewed in December. Talks will now be held with the Lancashire Council of Mosques.
During the debate on the controversial issue emotions ran high on animal welfare , religious discrimination, freedom of choice and child welfare. IN the end 41 councillors voted in favour of the change, 24 against and there were 15 abstentions.Councillors had a free vote on the issue. Despite pleas to postpone the decision for wider public consultation, put in a failed
amendment by Coun Azhar Ali, the debate ended with a victory for council leader Coun Geoff Driver.
He successfully proposed a three part motion which laid the way for further talks with the Lancashire Council of Mosques.
Coun Driver stressed he believed it was a simple animal welfare issue saying: “This is an animal welfare issue. Nothing more, nothing less. It’s not anti Semitic and anti Muslim, sadly some people are trying to make it out to be.”
But later during the debate some councillors were antagonised when he referred to how two Muslim and one Jewish councillor from the Labour group sat on a previous council working party which looked at the issue.
Labour and Liberal democrat councillors complained he should not bring religion into it. Labour group leader Coun Ali said his comments “were not objective or rational at all”.
Coun Driver’s motion noted that the council recognised and respected the Muslim community’s requirements for food to comply with their religious beliefs.
Halal meat is meat slaughtered and prepared according to Islamic and Sharia Law and demands an animal is alive when slaughtered. However, opinion varies amongst Muslims as to whether it is acceptable for the animal to have been pre-stunned. Coun Driver’s motion continued: “Council is concerned that slaughtering animals without stunning them beforehand causes them unnecessary stress and suffering.”
The council resolved:
• Not to provide meat other than poultry to council establishments unless animals were stunned before slaughter
• To consult with the Lancashire Council of Mosques and others “on how the council can implement this whilst continuing to provide meals which comply with the Muslim community’s religious beliefs”.
• To undertake further investigations with the Lancashire Council of Mosques into the stunning of poultry before slaughter.
Coun Driver said this acknowledged some chickens could be killed by pre-stunning and therefore would not meet halal requirements.
A report to councillors noted 27 schools currently have halal meat on their school dinner menu it is the choice of each individual school whether or not the meat is from pre-stunned animals.
UP to 12,000 pupils could be affected by the change.