A Muslim body has criticised a council ban on unstunned halal meat, claiming stunning animals is “inhumane”.
Councillors in Lancashire voted to end its use in council-run schools saying it was “cruel” to not stun animals before slaughter.
But the Lancashire Council of Mosques (LCOM) claims the practice of stunning can cause more distress to the animal.
UK and EU law requires animals to be stunned before being killed, unless the meat is intended for Muslims or Jews.
LCOM chairman Abdul Hamid Qureshi: “From our point of view, stunning is not humane – cases can be seen on YouTube where animals are in distress. Animal care is important.
“If the law allows it, the council does not have the right to impose this.”
Many animal rights campaigners have long called for a ban on halal or Jewish shechita slaughter, which – among other requirements – specify slitting an animal’s throat quickly with a sharp knife while it is still conscious.
Leaders in both faiths say that, when done correctly, it brings about immediate unconsciousness followed by death, either without delay or within seconds.
Some Muslims agree that stunning can be used to incapacitate animals if it makes them easier to kill, but say it should not be used to slaughter them for meat.
A Westminster Hall debate in 2014 on religious methods of animal slaughter cited figures from the all-party group on beef and lamb that suggested about 90% of lambs and 88% of chickens slaughtered under halal were stunned before slaughter.
What is halal meat?
- Halal is Arabic for permissible, while halal food is that which adheres to Islamic law
- The Islamic form of slaughtering animals involves cutting the throat so that blood streams out
- Animals must be alive and healthy at the time of slaughter
- During the process, a dedication to God is recited
Stunned and unstunned halal meat is currently supplied to 12,000 pupils at 27 schools in Blackburn, Nelson, Burnley, Rawtenstall, Hyndburn, Clitheroe and Preston.
From December, those schools will serve only stunned halal beef and lamb, once the current contract with the meat supplier runs out.
Councillors said they would consult with LCOM over unstunned chicken, as some Muslims are concerned that stunning kills them.
Stephen Evans, campaigns director at the National Secular Society, welcomed the council’s ban, saying: “The time has come to abolish the religious exemption that allows animals to be slaughtered without pre-stunning.”
He said that current regulations ensured “farm animals are slaughtered under the most humane conditions possible” and “religious freedom should be supported, but this is not an absolute right”.
Schools are entitled to get their meat from any supplier and do not have to obtain supplies from the council.