English county bans ritually slaughtered meat from public schools
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English county bans ritually slaughtered meat from public schools

Move by Lancashire comes over accusations that religious refusal to stun animals before killing is cruel

Illustrative: Kosher meat slaughtered in Poland  bears the symbol of the Warsaw rabbinate. (JTA)
Illustrative: Kosher meat slaughtered in Poland bears the symbol of the Warsaw rabbinate. (JTA)

A county in northern England will no longer allow meat that came from the ritual slaughter of animals to be served in public schools, angering Jews and Muslims.

The ban was introduced in October by the council of Lancashire County, which borders on the suburbs of Manchester, home to the United Kingdom’s second-largest Jewish community with more than 25,000 people, the Jewish News of London reported Wednesday ahead of its implementation.

Council members voted 41-24 to ban the meat from county-run schools. Fifteen council members abstained.

Lancashire currently supplies 27 schools with meat that was produced from animals that were killed without being stunned. Most of that kind of meat is halal, catering to 12,000 children who are served 1.2 million meals every year.

Both halachah, Jewish religious law, and sharia, Muslim religious law, forbid the consumption of animals that are not fully conscious when their necks are cut. If the animals are stunned at the time of the slaughter, the meat is not considered kosher by Jewish standards and halal by Muslim standards. Animal rights activists oppose the custom, calling it cruel. Ultranationalists in Europe also target it.

The head of the county government, Geoff Driver, has called the custom “abhorrent” and “cruel,” the Jewish News reported.

Jewish representatives in London and Manchester said they were “troubled” by his “dismissive attitude” after meeting Driver earlier this year, the report also said.

Following the meeting Marie van der Zyl, a vice president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, said Driver “refused to see the danger of his assertion that Jewish and Muslim council members could not be objective because of their faiths.”

Earlier this year, two of Belgium’s three federal regions voted to ban slaughter of animals without stunning by 2019.

Slaughter without stunning is now illegal in five European Union member states – Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Lithuania and Slovenia — as well as three other non-EU countries in Western Europe: Norway, Switzerland and Iceland. EU members Austria and Estonia enforce strict supervision of the custom that some Jews there say make it nearly impossible to keep.

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