KIRKLEES Council has finally released a public statement explaining its policy over serving exclusively non-stunned halal meat in schools.
However, it still refuses to name the 40 schools receiving it.
Coun Lisa Holmes (Liversedge & Gomersal) tabled a question at last week’s full council meeting but it wasn’t taken because of time constraints.
Now Labour’s cabinet member for schools, Coun Masood Ahmed (Dewsbury South), has said that the policy of serving halal from animals still conscious when slaughtered, dates back to at least 2006 – and probably before.
He said: “We all understand that there is a need to offer choice to our Muslim children for religious reasons.
“It is within this context that our policy was developed, back in 2006.
“My understanding is that we used non-stunned (meat) before 2006.
“The 2006 consultation resulted in the Halal Monitoring Committee (HMC) becoming the accrediting body.”
HMC is the authority recognised by the Muslims of the Deobandi ideology, the strain of Islam which dominates Savile Town, though not other majority Islamic neighbourhoods like Ravensthorpe.
According to the National Secular Society, which unearthed the statistics, 80 per cent of British Muslims eat humanely stunned halal meat.
Their survey found only a total of 160 schools were served non-stunned halal, meaning Kirklees accounted for more than a quarter. Next closest was Luton Borough Council with 21 schools.
But Coun Ahmed contradicted that. He said: “To be totally clear: Kirklees Council is not the biggest user of non-stunned halal meat.
“Along with the other West Yorkshire authorities, we source our halal meat from the Yorkshire Purchasing Organisation.” And he reassured non-Muslim parents that their children had non-halal choices.
“In schools where there is 100 per cent halal, the menus are labelled as such; where there is both, these are clearly labelled with a tent card, separated colour-coded red dishes, and children are supported by schools to know which is which.
“The menus are colour-coded red for halal options and served from red dishes cooked, served and prepared separately. Parents should be informed by schools directly of the particular process for their schools as they vary.
“It is also on our school meal website informing parents to contact their school regarding halal, non-halal and special diets.”
However, Coun Holmes (Con) hit back. She said: “The Conservative group is not in support of any non-stunned halal meat in Kirklees schools.
“We have no issue with pre-stunned halal meat but where non-stunned is being served there should be an alternative.”
Megan Manson, campaigns officer for the NSS, rejected the council’s stance.
“The scientific consensus is that slaughtering animals without stunning them first causes unnecessary suffering.
“Councils should be committed to ensuring that the meat they supply is from animals cared for to the highest possible standards, including at the point of slaughter.”
She added: “The council is making a baseless assumption that Muslims insist on non-stun halal meat.
“We know this is not true: most halal meat sold in the UK is from stunned animals.
“The council shouldn’t be allowing one group of hardliners to speak for or dictate the demands of the whole community.”