Lancashire County Council yesterday decided to stop providing schools with unstunned halal meat due to concerns over ‘unnecessary stress and suffering’ for the animals.
The council’s contract for non-stunned halal meat is due for renewal and so councillors discussed whether to continue providing meat slaughtered in this manner or not to schools.
Councillors voted not to renew the contract.
In a statement following the decision, a council spokesperson said: ‘Following a comprehensive debate, Full Council has decided that Lancashire County Council will not provide meat, other than poultry, to its establishments unless animals are stunned before they are slaughtered.’
The spokesman added the council would now consult with the Lancashire Council of Mosques and others on how to implement the decision.
The resolution agreed by the council said that Lancashire CC respected the Muslim communities’ requirements for their food to comply with their religious beliefs.
However, it said the ‘council is concerned that slaughtering animals without stunning them beforehand causes them unnecessary stress and suffering.’
The term halal is an Arabic term which means permissible or lawful. It is the Islamic dietary standard which states animals have to be slaughtered according to certain principles. It is similar to Jewish dietary laws known as kosher.
The Lancashire Council of Mosques sets out six principles which must be followed for meat to be considered halal. The sixth reads: ‘The slaughter process must avoid all forms of stunning and the animal must be alive prior to slaughter.’
Poultry was not included in the council’s motion because stunning it could lead to death.
Introducing the motion, council leader Geoff Driver emphasised the motion was an ‘animal welfare issue, nothing more, nothing less. It is not anti-Semitic and it is not anti-Muslim as sadly some people are trying to make it out to be.’
He continued: ‘Nobody can sensibly argue that the animal both in the actual process of slaughter but also in their being prepared for that slaughter which can take several minutes when the animals suffer serious, serious discomfort.’
The Lancashire Council of Mosques has been approached for a comment.
Responding to the council’s decision, a spokesperson for the Lancashire Council of Mosques said: ‘There was no consultation before [the leader] went to the cabinet and started to reignite this issue which was settled in 2013 after intense work by the county when schools would be allowed to choose whatever route they wished to according to the needs of their clients.
‘The leader of the council is very sensitive about this issue I think. He thinks it’s an animal rights issue he has to take up as a very important part of his life. So he again has ignited this issue.
‘Our stance was that the criteria we have is unanimous among Muslims. The law allows us and Jewish people to have non-stunned meat.’
The spokesperson added that the council’s decision will create unnecessary controversy around the Muslim community, particularly in schools.