Animal welfare or Islamophobia? ‘Unstunned’ halal meat banned in school meals by Lancashire council

An English council has voted to ban schools from serving halal meat from animals that are not stunned before slaughter. It follows an impassioned debate between the Muslim community and those arguing the practice is “abhorrent” and “inhumane.”

The proposal to ban halal meat from unstunned animals was brought by Geoff Driver, the Conservative leader of Lancashire County Council. “This is an animal welfare issue, nothing more, nothing less,” he said, according to the Lancashire Telegraph.

“The reason it has been raised now is because the contract for meat supplies is coming up for renewal,” he said. The practice is “abhorrent” and “really, really cruel,” he added. He denied the vote was Islamophobic or anti-Semitic.

Lancashire currently supplies 27 schools with “unstunned” halal meat, catering for up to 12,000 children. During a heated debate on Thursday night, councillors voted 41 to 24 to ban the meat from county-run schools. Fifteen councillors abstained.

Conservative Councillor Andrew Snowden said the issue was about “the minimum treatment we expect animals to receive.” He said he would support a ban on the “inhumane” practice of not stunning animals before slaughter “because my moral compass obliges me to,” according to the Guardian.

Labour councillor Lorraine Beavers said 12,000 children in Lancashire were being used as a “political football.” She said the motion sent a message to children of a particular faith that they were not being respected by the Conservative-led council.

Lancashire Council of Mosques (LCM) accused Driver of leading a “crusade” on the issue. Abdul Qureshi, its chair, said any decision to ban the meat would create huge difficulties. “People will pull out of school meals, and people who should eat properly will be deprived of that. For us it’s a matter of faith. For Geoff Driver it is his feelings,” he told the BBC last month.

UK law requires farm animals to be stunned before slaughter, but provides a religious exemption for Jews and Muslims. There is no single standard for halal in Britain. Instead there are a range of halal accreditation agencies which inspect and accredit firms involved in the production and handling of the meat.