Lancashire County Council (LCC) has found itself at the centre of a religious row after voting to ban non-stunned halal meat in the schools it runs.
About 12,000 children have been served non-stunned halal meat in 27 of LCC’s schools across Blackburn, Nelson, Burnley, Rawtenstall, Hyndburn, Clitheroe and Preston, but a resolution agreed by the council last week put a stop to its provision on animal welfare grounds.
The resolution said the council ‘recognises and respects’ the Muslim community’s requirement for food to comply with religious beliefs, but claimed slaughtering animals without stunning them first ‘causes unnecessary stress and suffering’.
Votes to support the resolution came overwhelmingly from Conservative councillors, with 37 for, 3 against and 1 abstention.
No Labour councillors supported the stance, but 20 voted against it.
A spokesman for LCC said: “When the contract to provide non-stunned halal meat came due for renewal, Cabinet referred the decision on whether to continue to provide meat slaughtered in this manner to Full Council, in recognition of the strong views held on the subject.
“Following a comprehensive debate, Full Council has decided LCC will not provide meat, other than poultry, to its establishments unless animals are stunned before they are slaughtered.”
As part of the resolution, the council promised to consult with the Lancashire Council of Mosques (LCM) and others on how the policy could be implemented while continuing to provide meals which comply with the Muslim community’s religious beliefs.
It also pledged to ‘undertake further investigations’ with the LCM into the stunning of poultry before slaughter.
But LCM’s chairman, Abdul Qureshi, told the BBC any decision to ban non-stunned halal meat would create a ‘huge difficulty’.
“People will pull out of school meals and people who should eat properly will be deprived of that”, he added.
“For us it is a matter of faith.”
Figures from the Food Standards Agency (FSA) in 2012 showed 84 per cent of cattle and calves, 81 per cent of sheep and goats and 88 per cent of poultry slaughtered according to halal rules were stunned first.
But in 2015, the British Veterinary Association claimed the number of animals killed without being stunned had risen by 60 per cent.