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Holy row as councils suppling schools with halal meat accused of "normalising cruelty to animals"; WARNING DISTRESSING CONTENT: Is halal meat a religious right or grotesque animal cruelty?

Byline: Andrew Penman

Secretly filmedfootagefrom a halal abattoir caused an outcry in 2016, showing sheep writhing in agony on a bloody floor after having their throats cut while still alive.

The abattoir, Simply Halal, has since been shut down by the Food Standards Agency and last year the owner and a slaughtermanwere finedfor animal welfare offences, but the issue of the slaughter of livestock while still conscious is as inflamatory as ever.

By law, all animals should be stunned before slaughter, but UK and European Union rules give exemptions on religious grounds.

Kirklees in West Yorkshire is one of 17 councils that provides halal meat to schools from animals that have not been stunned before having their throats cut.

Last week council leader Shabir Pandor questioned whether those campaigning to ban non-stun slaughter really have animal welfare at heart.

"This debate has been generated deliberately on the back of creating divisions, hatred and putting communities against one another," he said.

Refusing to consider changing the council's policy, he tweeted: "Our policy on halal will remain in place."

TheNational Secular Societyresponded by accusing Councillor Pandor of trying to silence the debate.

"While anyone who uses this issue to stir up anti-Muslim prejudice should be condemned, the scientific consensus is clear that stunning animals before they are slaughtered is more humane than not doing so," said its chief executive Stephen Evans.

"By supplying non-stun halal to dozens of schools Kirklees Council is normalising cruelty to animals. And its response to criticism of this appears to be to deflect attention by making blanket accusations against its critics.

"These mendacious silencing tactics must be called out for what they are."

Other groups that have criticised the slaughter of unstunned animals include the British Veterinary Association and the RSPCA, which says: "Our concern is solely with the welfare of animals and we're calling for all farm animals to be stunned with no exceptions, to ensure they are unconscious and insensible to pain when killed."

"With around 84% of halal animals already being pre-stunned and certified as halal it highlights that humane slaughter and religious practices can work together.

Halal slaughterhouse boss who broke humane killing law fined just [pounds sterling]400

"The current law allows animals to be slaughtered without stunning when this is done in accordance with religious rites. Whilst this continues we believe stricter measures are needed to ensure that the supply of such meat strictly matches local demand only.

"For example, Germany requires that abattoirs apply for a licence by defining the number of animals to meet local demand.

"We also believe clear labelling on meat products to indicate if the animal was stunned or not stunned would give consumers the opportunity to make a clear and informed choice about the meat they buy."

Nick Palmer ofCompassion in World FarmingUK said: "Whilst Compassion in World Farming respects religious freedom, we believe that the UK Government should take action to ban non-stun slaughter of any kind.

"This would include any unstunned religious slaughter which leads to unnecessary animal suffering.

"It's worth noting that more than half of all halal meat is pre-stunned, rendering the animal unconscious before its throat is cut, reducing pain and distress. We would like to see this practice in place for all animals before they are slaughtered.

"Compassion would like to see public institutions take a lead in ending the availability of meat from animals not stunned before slaughter. This debate is not about religion, it's really just about enabling us all, whatever our religious views, to eat meat from animals who haven't been subjected to unnecessary pain and suffering at their time of death."

One person who has no doubt about the rights and wrongs of this issue is comedian and animal lover Ricky Gervais.

He tweeted last year: "Animal cruelty is wrong. 'But, it's a tradition', doesn't make it right, 'It's part of my religion' doesn't make it right, 'It's my livelihood' doesn't make it right, and 'people are more important' doesn't make it right either. You know why? Because it's just wrong."

The campaign groupPeople for the Ethical Treatment of Animalsbelieves the issue could be resolved if people moved to vegan diets.

"Whether animals are stunned and killed or just killed, the final moments of their lives make up only one part of the long, cruel process of meat production," said PETA's Director of International Programmes, Mimi Bekhechi.

"Animals slaughtered for halal meat and those killed in standard abattoirs come from the same unhygienic, miserable factory farms, where they're crammed by the thousands into filthy, windowless sheds, cages, and other confinement systems.

"For the sake of animals, the planet, and children's health, schools should urgently be switching to serving only healthy vegan meals."

Hillside Animal Sanctuary, which took the covert footage inside Simply Halal, says: "Hillside strongly opposes non-stun slaughter of animals.

"However, while this method of killing animals is generally deemed to be cruel, we have sufficient filmed evidence to show that many animals in traditional British slaughterhouses suffer the same fate, as they are often insufficiently stunned, leaving them to suffer the same painful end, having their throats cut while still partially or fully conscious.

"By exposing this extreme suffering of animals, we hope it will help people to make an informed decision about what they put on their plates."

TheMuslim Council of Britaindid not respond to my request for comment but has previously opposed any ban on non-stun slaughter, saying: "This will affect both Jewish and Muslim communities, for whom stunning during slaughter is not allowed."

It insisted that halal butchery "does not cause harm or suffering to an animal when slaughter methods are carried out properly."

UK school only serves water and halal meat in canteen and bans pupils from bringing in packed lunches

If meat from non-stunned animals is to be labelled, it argues, then for the sake of consistency all meat labels should reveal the slaughter method: "If the current controversy is truly about consumer transparency, then we must also have labelled meat slaughtered via captive bolt shooting, gassing, electrocution, drowning or trapping. Singling out halal meat for compulsory labelling thus leaves us open to religious discrimination."

The latest quarterly figures from the Food Standards Agency show that almost 5,000 cattle were slaughtered in the UK without first being stunned, around 760,000 sheep and goats were not stunned and for poultry the figure for the same three months is more than 16million.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs says it is has no plans to change the law permitting the slaughter of unstunned animals.

A spokesman said: "The Government respects religious freedoms and expects the industry, whether food producer or food outlet, to provide consumers with all the information they need to make informed choices."

CAPTION(S):

Credit: Hillside Animal Sanctuary

A slaughterman at Simply Halal with the still writhing body of a sheep at his feet

Credit: Huddersfield Examiner

Shabir Pandor

Credit: Hillside Animal Sanctuary

Trapped: a cow, fully conscious, about to have its throat cut at Simply Halal

Credit: K9 Magazine

Ricky Gervais with Scarlett the beagle

Credit: Hillside Animal Sanctuary

A sheep on the conveyor of death at Simply Halal tries to escape
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Title Annotation:News,UK News
Publication:Daily Mirror (London, England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Jan 24, 2019
Words:1200
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