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Opinion divided as councillors to vote on school dinner halal ban

LCC's leader said it is 'abhorrent' to slaughter animals without stunning them first

A ban could be implemented on the supply of unstunned halal meat for school dinners across Hyndburn.

Councillors have been given a free vote on the issue next month.

It comes after Lancashire County Council (LCC) leader Geoff Driver described the practice of slaughtering animals without stunning them first’ as ‘abhorrent’.

However, opponents of the move say it will restrict freedom of choice and religion and could lead to thousands of pupils boycotting school meals.

The county council supplies halal meat to 27 schools across the county, including in Hyndburn.

The controversial issue was debated behind closed doors by the council last week.

It was previously raised in 2013 when Coun Driver was in an earlier reign as leader of the authority.

Councillors then resolved to accept both stunned and non-stunned meat, following a report by the Halal Meat Task Group.

Coun Driver said all councillors will be able to vote ‘according to his/her conscience’ at a full council meeting on October 26.

He said: “My personal view is that it is abhorrent to slaughter animals without stunning them first and we could have implemented a procurement process for the purchase of meat for all LCC establishments, including schools, on that basis at cabinet last week.

“However, I recognise that this is an emotive issue and that some people hold equally strong views contrary to my own.”

Accrington county councillor Munsif Dad, who was on the 2013 Halal Meat Task Group, said he was “disappointed” by the decision to reopen the debate. He said: “This will not allow that freedom of choice and religion for people to choose what they want to eat.

“I think those children then won’t get a school meal and that will mean there are less meals required and less staff required.

“I will certainly be going in and asking for the status quo and to stay as it is. There is then a choice for everybody.”

Graham Jones MP

Hyndburn MP Graham Jones has supported calls for a ban on unstunned meat.

He said: “I don’t have a strong view on religious beliefs but I do have a strong view on animal welfare and for me animal welfare takes priority and is paramount.

“All school dinners must conform to the highest ethical standards that are possible with regard to the killing of animals.”

The Halal Food Authority states that Halal meat is that which adheres to an Islamic ritual called Zabihah, which requires animals to be alive and healthy at the time of slaughter. The Conservatives re-took control of county hall from Labour following May’s LCC elections.

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