THOUSANDS of non-Muslim children in Kirklees schools are being fed halal meat from animals that have been ritually slaughtered without being stunned – and without the knowledge of either the schools or their parents.
Even Kirklees councillors were apparently unaware that the authority is the country’s biggest user of meat from animals that have their throats slit while fully conscious – despite 80% of all UK halal meat being humanely stunned first, which is accepted by the Halal Food Authority.
A report by the National Secular Society found that just 18 of the 206 local authorities it questioned used non-stunned halal. Kirklees sends the meat to 40 schools – over a quarter of the national total according to the NSS and almost double the next closest user, Luton Borough Council, which supplies 21 schools.
The vast majority of schools supplied are specifically not Islamic faith schools. Academies and free schools also do not routinely source their meat from Kirklees Council.
The report was highlighted by Dewsbury Borough Independents leader Aleks Lukic, who writes on the subject in a new feature today on page 9.
Animal welfare legislation requires all animals to be stunned to minimise suffering, the only exemption being for religious communities to meet strict Jewish and Muslim religious preferences.
Kirklees Council refused to name the schools supplied, whether teachers and parents were aware what their children were eating, or explain why it does not use halal meat from stunned animals which is acceptable to most British Muslims.
Council leader Coun Shabir Pandor (Batley West) did not respond to our request to comment.
NSS chief executive Stephen Evans said: “Councils shouldn’t be supplying meat from non-stun slaughter en masse, particularly when a majority of Muslims are content with pre-stunned meat.
“Too many local authorities’ catering policies are favouring those pushing a more hardline interpretation of Islam.” He added: “All meat should be slaughtered in line with the advice of vets, not clerics.”
It is thought the policy was instituted by Kirklees officers without consulting either councillors or the Cabinet.
Just a few weeks ago officers arbitrarily ordered that goldfish could not be given as fair-ground prizes under ‘animal welfare’ concerns.
One mum who has two children at a Dewsbury primary school which she believes gets Kirklees school dinners, said she was horrified. She did not want to be named.
“I’m vegetarian but both my son and daughter eat meat.
“It’s a school with quite an even ethnic mix and I respect the wishes of Muslim parents, but I am furious that we did not know the meat all the children are served is halal, as it now seems.
“But for it to be from animals that die what must be an horrific death – that is barbaric and it is not acceptable in any respect. Especially if this is being done effectively behind our backs.”
Tracy Brabin, MP for Batley and Spen said: “As a very minimum animals that were not stunned during the slaughter process should be clearly labelled. And it goes without saying that parents and children should be informed if any meat being served is not pre-stunned.
“I’m aware of religious sensitivities regarding the stunning of animals, and that the vast majority of halal meat is pre-stunned.
“I am making urgent inquiries to discover what policy Kirklees follows and will comment further in due course.”
Dewsbury and Mirfield MP Paula Sherriff added: “I have contacted the council to ask for more information about the National Secular Society report on non stunned halal meat provided to schools.
“I support the proper labelling of halal meat. Parents deserve the right to know the source of their children’s school meals.
“A balance must be met that considers cultural preferences alongside the latest animal welfare advice.”
A Kirklees spokesperson said only that they had offered schools the choice of halal meat for over 25 years, adding that the policy was “following consultation with stakeholders including parents, children and representatives of the Islamic faith.”
The spokesperson did not indicate if any non-Muslim parents or children were consulted, or if the type of halal meat being sourced was considered.
Long-serving Mirfield Tory councillor Martyn Bolt said he was completely in the dark about the practice and did not believe it had been introduced as policy by his colleagues.
He said: “This is a point which needs scrutiny. It may have been established over 20 years ago although it’s the first time I have heard of it in all that time, and I’m sure many parents of all faiths are equally unaware of it.
“Given the new-found interest of officers in animal welfare regarding goldfish in fairgrounds, I trust Coun Graham Turner and colleagues will ensure that halal meat, where required, is killed in a humane fashion.”