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Lancashire Council to end most unstunned meat provision in schools

For the third time within a year, Lancashire County Council has voted in favour of removing non-stunned meat products, except poultry, from its schools. The vote, which passed 49 in favour and 23 against, means that 27 schools catering to 12,000 pupils will now switch from serving meat from non-poultry animals that were not stunned prior to slaughter to other sources. Humanists UK, which has campaigned in support of this policy, has welcomed this decision as progress but called for non-stunned poultry to also cease to be supplied.

The Council had passed a resolution in October last year to remove non-stunned meat, but this was not implemented after the Lancashire Council of Mosques threatened to boycott school meals and legally challenge the Council’s decision. In February, the Council launched a consultation, which Humanists UK responded to. In July, the Council voted for a second time to remove non-stunned meat products. The Council then decided given the ‘strength of feeling on both sides’ to have a third vote on the matter last night.

Non-stunned slaughter involves the cutting of an animal’s throat whilst the animal is still fully conscious and alert. Current regulations regarding the welfare of animals specify that all animals must be stunned so that they are insensitive to pain at the time of slaughter, reducing the animal’s suffering. However, there are loopholes in this law that allow Muslims and Jews to slaughter meat in accordance with halal and kosher traditions without stunning, for consumption only by members of their respective religions. No kosher meat is stunned, while approximately 20 percent of halal meat is non-stunned. Up to now, Lancashire’s schools have been serving only non-stunned halal meat.

Much of this meat makes its way onto the general market, and is served to those of other religions and beliefs. This is in spite of the fact that organisations like the RSPCA, the British Veterinary Association, and the Humane Slaughter Association, as well as the Government’s own Farm Animal Welfare Committee, all recommend an end to non-stunned slaughter, due to its inhumane nature.

Humanists UK’s Campaigns Officer Rachel Taggart-Ryan commented, ‘We are pleased that once again Lancashire County Council has decided in favour of implementing this policy. It has been a long process, and we hope after three votes by the council and a public consultation, there will be no more challenges to the legitimacy of the decision.

‘It is widely accepted that the practice of non-stunned slaughter causes unnecessary suffering to the animal. It is only carried out for religious reasons, and the law is quite clear that the manifestation of a religious belief can and should be limited if it harms the health and rights of others, including animals. We urge Lancashire County Council to adopt the same policy for poultry, and for other councils that also provide non-stunned meat to also move away from such an approach.’

Notes

For further comment or information, please contact Humanists UK’s Campaigns Officer Rachel Taggart-Ryan on rachel@humanism.org.uk or 0207 324 3065

Read more on our campaigns on animal welfare: https://humanism.org.uk/campaigns/public-ethical-issues/animal-welfare/

We support the reduction of animal suffering resulting from human behaviour and see compassionate attitudes to animal suffering as a hallmark of a humane society. As we wish to reduce suffering, humanists are concerned about the treatment of food animals, both during their lives and when they are slaughtered. Pre-stunning is mandated by law but there are exemptions for religious groups to provide kosher (or shechita) and halal meat. We believe these exemptions should end, as has happened in some other countries. We note that there is in fact widespread certification of meat as halal with pre-stunning. If the exemptions enabling religious slaughter are not to be brought to an end, then we think at the very least rules should be introduced requiring all such meat to be labelled as such.

At Humanists UK, we advance free thinking and promote humanism to create a tolerant society where rational thinking and kindness prevail. Our work brings non-religious people together to develop their own views, helping people be happier and more fulfilled in the one life we have. Through our ceremonies, education services, and campaigning work, we’re committed to creating a fair and equal society for all.

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