Lancashire County Council has announced it will no longer supply non-stunned halal meat to schools against the wishes of its residents.
Last October the council proposed banning meat from animals that had not been stunned before slaughter, a central requirement of Muslim and Jewish dietary rules.
The council argued this practice caused the animals ‘unnecessary stress and suffering.’
A spokesperson for the Lancashire Council of Mosques criticised the decision at the time emphasising that ‘the law allows us and Jewish people to have non-stunned meat.’
They also criticised the council leader Geoff Driver for not consulting on the issue before proposing it to cabinet.
Lancashire CC subsequently opened a public consultation on the issue. Over two-thirds of respondents (65%) strongly disagreed with the council’s proposal and a third of respondents (33%) strongly agreed.
‘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,’ said Cllr Driver.
‘The contract becoming due for renewal has given us the opportunity to consider the animal welfare issues surrounding the supply of halal meat, and on this basis the cabinet has voted to support the council's previous resolution not to supply unstunned meat, other than poultry, to our schools.’
Cllr Driver added that there is ‘much debate about what constitutes halal’ and noted that in some countries ‘all animals must be stunned before slaughter.’
According to the Lancashire Council of Mosques, the criteria for halal slaughter includes the stipulation that ‘the slaughter process must avoid all forms of stunning and the animal must be alive prior to slaughter.’
Cllr Driver commented: ‘We hope that people understand how the council has arrived at this decision, which has been taken solely on the grounds of animal welfare with due consideration for the impacts outlined in the responses to the consultation.
‘We would like to work with the Lancashire Council of Mosques to ensure that the meals we supply to the affected schools in future provide a range of nutritious options which satisfy students' dietary requirements and are acceptable to LCM, parents and governors.’
Abdul Hamid Qureshi, CEO of the Lancashire Council of Mosques, responded: 'We are very upset and angry at the LCC’s very discriminatory decision on the issue.
'In response to the consultation the overwhelming majority of the people of Lancashire rejected the LCC’s proposal. The cabinet still wants to impose a decision which is negative, abrasive and on principle wrong.'
'We don’t believe it is an animal rights issue as we have offered to LCC's leadership a number of times to work in partnership with them on this issue,' he added.