The proposed ban on non-stunned halal meat will restrict religious freedom, and risks harming the health of Muslim pupils. It will also alienate Muslim voters from the Conservative Party, not just in Lancashire but elsewhere.
Our Prime Minister Theresa May often speaks about the shared values of our society.
For example, in the preamble to this year’s consultation document on integration from Sajid Javid MP when he was Secretary of State for the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, the Prime Minister wrote:
“This is a moment for us to proudly promote the values that unite us – democracy, free speech, mutual respect, and the rule of law. These values allow us to enjoy our individual freedoms, to lead varied lives in diverse communities. But they come with a responsibility to respect the rights of others to live as they choose. This is why our multi-ethnic, multi-faith society has been so successful. These values must prevail.”
Freedom for people to practice their religion is an integral part of these values. That is why the United Kingdom permits the slaughter of animals for food for Jews and Muslims to take place without pre-stunning. David Cameron when Prime Minister was emphatic on this point. See our website page Halal and Kosher slaughter in the UK.
Lancashire County Council (“LCC”) has large numbers of Muslim pupils in some of its schools. For those schools, for many years, it has supplied halal meat to those pupils who require it, while ensuring that non-halal meat is also provided to (non-Muslim) pupils who do not wish to eat halal meat. Such halal meat has always been supplied from animals that were not stunned before slaughter, as the law allows.
However, it appears to be a personal obsession of the leader of LCC, Councillor Geoff Driver, to do away with non-stunned halal meat. Councillor Driver makes much of the point that some Muslims accept that halal meat can be produced from pre-stunned animals, even though very many Muslims consider that pre-stunning stops the meat being halal. (The Jewish position is categorical that pre-stunning precludes meat being kosher.)
Accordingly, the issue will be on LCC’s agenda on Thursday 18 October. The LCC website page linked below contains all of the relevant document, some of which we refer to.
Scroll down to “Item 6 Policy Position on the Future Provision of Halal Meat”:
LCC has summarised the history in Appendix A of its papers. In 2013, LCC decided that it would only supply pre-stunned “halal” meat to its schools. There was understandable widespread concern amongst Muslim pupils and parents leading to a boycott of school meals and the policy was reversed.
However, Councillor Driver keeps reverting to this issue. Accordingly, earlier in 2018, LCC carried out a public consultation. LCC has published the results of this consultation as Appendix B of its papers. The results were very clear. 90% of Muslims responding to the consultation rejected the proposal to supply only pre-stunned “halal” meat.
Despite the clear results from this consultation, Councillor Driver has continued with his campaign to ban on non-stunned halal meat.
Under the Equality Act 2010 section 49, LCC is subject to the “public sector equality duty”. It has produced an equality impact assessment using its “Equality Analysis Toolkit” which is available as Appendix C of its papers. LCC is quite clear about the negative impact of the proposal for Muslim (and Jewish) pupils:
“Religion or Belief – Religion: for pupils who are Muslim, any change in policy to provide only stunned halal meat options would result in reduced choice of menu options such as having vegetarian or other non-meat meals if they find stunned halal meat to be unacceptable.
It may result in a boycott of school meals, as occurred in 2013 when a previous decision to provide only stunned halal meat was applied. This resulted in Lancashire Council of Mosques (LCM) asking pupils/parents to boycott their school meals. It is unlikely that LCM’s response would be different if this situation arose again.
Affected pupils might then need to bring packed lunches or leave school at lunchtime to go home or elsewhere for lunch. This could impact adversely upon family finances and the nutritional content of the pupils’ lunch, as a school lunch is required to meet a range of food and nutritional standards. In the areas where schools take the un-stunned halal meat option Blackburn with Darwen has a 27% population who identify as Muslim, 17% in Pendle and over 10% of residents in Preston and Burnley according to the 2011 Census.
There is also concern that Jewish parents/pupils may also feel adversely affected if the un-stunned halal meat option was removed as similar requirements for meat to be “un-stunned” apply to kosher meat products. This may prompt a concern that the school meals service may no longer meet their own cultural dietary requirements. The most significant percentage of Jewish residents is in Fylde, although currently no schools in this area are included on the list of those affected by this Review.”
The Conservative Muslim Forum is dismayed by Councillor Driver’s determination to ride roughshod over the views of Lancashire’s Muslim citizens as expressed in the public consultation, and to ignore the serious concerns expressed in LCC’s own equality impact assessment. We consider such behaviour to be disgraceful and entirely inappropriate in 21st-century Britain.
We call upon all Lancashire councillors to vote against the proposal being put forward at the council meeting.
We also encourage Lancashire residents to contact their councillors to protest against this infringement of the religious freedom of Lancashire’s Muslim minority. Lancashire residents can find their LCC councillors by entering their postcode into the search box on the page linked below:
We are particularly concerned that Muslim voters will see this not as the personal campaign of Councillor Driver, but instead view it as a Conservative politician seeking to restrict the religious freedoms of Muslims. This will be electorally damaging for our Party, not just in Lancashire but around the country.