‘Racial hatred’ prompts opposition to halal meat in school meals

‘Racial hatred’ prompts opposition to halal meat in school meals January 19, 2019

THE leader of a Yorkshire council that provides non-stunned halal meat products in its schools has slammed efforts to stop the practice.

Image via YouTube

Kirklees Council Leader Shabir Pandor, above, accused animal rights campaigners of stirring up racial hatred.

Rejecting calls to end the policy of providing halal meat he said:

This debate has been generated deliberately on the back of creating divisions, hatred and putting communities against one another. I cannot commit myself or my cabinet to review this policy. The answer has to be no.

The announcement has disappointed the National Secular Society, which raised the issue of non-stunned meat in school last year. It said the council was:

Normalising cruelty to animals.

Clr Pandor’s comments followed deputations both in support of serving non-stunned halal meat, and against.

The debate was prompted after more than 7,000 people signed an online petition calling for all meat served in the borough’s schools to be stunned before slaughter.

Across Kirklees 43 schools receive halal meat via the authority’s catering service. Seventeen schools with predominantly Muslim children do not offer a non-halal meat alternative.

Image via Facebook

Petition organiser Aleks Lukic, above, said those signing the petition were “dismayed” that the council had chosen to pursue a policy:

That sponsors and normalises non-stun slaughter. He argued that scrapping the policy would mean “a significant improvement” for the welfare of animals slaughtered for school meals in Kirklees.

Reacting to the council’s admission that 17 schools in Kirklees do not provide a non-halal meat alternative he said children of non-Muslim families had been led into consuming products of non-stun slaughter:

Without their knowledge. The council has consistently failed to provide clear information to families on the type of meat being served [and] has tried to pass the blame onto the schools.

But it is the council that runs the catering service, and it is the council that provides the menus for families to consider. It is the council that is ultimately accountable.

Conservative Group leader Clr David Hall (Liversedge and Gomersal) said a comprehensive review of food in all the borough’s schools was overdue. And he pointed out that several nations, including Belgium, Denmark, Switzerland, Sweden, Norway and Iceland have banned religious ritual slaughter on the grounds that:

Animal rights come before religion.

National Secular Society chief executive Stephen Evans said:

It’s bitterly disappointing to see councillors in Kirklees, particularly the council’s leader, trying to silence debate over the supply of non-stun meat to schools in this way.

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.

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.

He added:

The council’s policy flies in the face of the fact that the majority of halal meat consumed by Muslims in the UK is from animals stunned prior to slaughter. Those who claim to be standing up for Muslims are in fact helping to stir social resentment and entrench reactionary views both among Muslims and against them.

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  • Bubblecar

    This is how the religious impose their views and practices on everyone else, whether we agree with them or not – they claim “intolerance” when we reject their superstitions.

    With Islam, they cynically misuse the idea of “race” to trample on society’s right and responsibility to make defensible ethical decisions. And the only defensible ethical response to superstitious practices involving animal cruelty, is to outlaw them.

  • Barros Serrano

    If Christians demanded any concession to their religion from the schools, the same people claiming bigotry on the part of the anti-halal folks would be saying that the Christian demands were in violation of the 1st Amendment.

    I certainly am opposed to all that Christians have gotten away with in this country in this respect (e.g, when I was in school they read Bible verses and said the Lord’s Prayer before class every day), and fail to see how it can be considered some sort of human rights advance if such concessions are then given instead to Moslems!


  • Raging Bee

    Is non-stun slaughter really that much crueller than stun-slaughter? How, exactly, is the animal killed in the former case? If it’s by cutting its throat and letting it bleed out, maybe the animal just goes to sleep, and doesn’t really suffer that much more than one that’s been stunned.

  • Matt Brooker (Syncretocrat)

    Quick correction: Kirklees isn’t in Scotland, it’s in Yorkshire (near Huddersfield)

  • Barry Duke

    Oops. Correction made!

  • As I said on the discussion about the Belgian halal and kosher ban, I think this type of activism does nothing but demonize Muslims and Jews. That’s why Hitler instituted a ban on kosher slaughter in Nazi Germany in 1933.

    The Kirklees Conservatives have long busied themselves making life hard for the minorities in their midst, and they’re as fond of their bigoted tweets as Trump is. Do you really think these folks are committed to animal rights, and aren’t just racist pricks?

    You can all stop pretending to be gung-ho about compassion toward all sentient creatures, if you’re going to support European fascists in their racist vendettas.

  • Bubblecar

    The National Secular Society is prominent in this campaign against non-stunned meat, and there is nothing remotely fascist about the NSS.

  • I’m not saying everyone involved in this is a right-wing ideologue. What I’m saying is that these sorts of bans have long been a tool of white supremacists in Europe to harass Jews and Muslims.

    It kind of disgusts me that the title dismisses the anti-Muslim angle, as if we’re supposed to think that right-wingers haven’t been using these sorts of campaigns as anti-immigrant vendettas for decades. If you want to support the racist right wing, be my guest, but at least be honest about what’s in this can of worms.

  • TheBookOfDavid

    the scientific consensus is clear that stunning animals before they are slaughtered is more humane than not doing so

    The scientific consensus also agrees that cage free and open pasture environments cause less suffering than the overcrowded and unsanitary state of kennels and feedlots. These laws’ narrow focus on the sole stage of production where there are sectarian differences, at the conspicuous omission of lifetime treatment, is a travesty of animal welfare, and calls into question the motives of their sponsors.

  • Exactly. This would seem a lot more above-board if the posters here had ever, even once, posted about factory farming or the ethics of food animal welfare. It seems that animal rights are really, really important as long as they can be used as weapons against Muslims.

  • Bubblecar

    I’m totally opposed to the racist right and I have no doubt Barry Duke is, too. But The Freethinker and NSS are concerned with opposing religious groups who try to impose their views on the public while demanding special privileges for anti-social beliefs and practices, and in this case, animal cruelty in the name of superstitious food rules.

    The NSS make the nature of their objections very clear. You can’t expect legitimately concerned groups to keep their mouths shut just because some other lobbyists motivated by racism get involved.

    My own view is that if multicultural societies are going to work effectively, all groups need to respect a foundation of basic ethical rules established by rational and humane secular principles. Food superstitions are not rational and when they involve inhumane practices, it is demanding too much that the rest of society should accept them.

  • Stephen Mynett

    Good points Bubblecar, The Freethinker has never tolerated racists. It is unfortunate that the abhorrent right use the meat issue to attack Muslims but that should not stop us campaigning against Kosher and Halal meats, as many of us have for a long time.
    It is worth noting that Halal is generally not a problem, all of New Zealand Halal meat is pre-stunned and that accounts for a great deal of the stuff used in the UK, plus there is a sizeable amount of Islamic leaders who are happy with pre-stunning. Unfortunately the numbers against pre-stunning are much higher in the Jewish world and we are usually accused of being anti-Semitic for supporting a ban on non-stunned meat, still I suppose it makes a change to have a different insult thrown at us.

  • For someone who’s supposedly “opposed to the racist right,” you seem to have the same cynical contempt for minorities and Muslims as they do. I’m not saying that the appeal to religious freedom automatically invalidates the animal rights argument. But we have to include the kosher & halal traditions somewhere in the discussion, otherwise we’re not interested in a truly multicultural society. I still say there are a lot of people here paying lip service to animal welfare, but who only look at it as a weapon to use against the Muslims.

    This tempest-in-a-teapot isn’t even about ritual slaughter per se, it’s about the inclusion of halal foods in a school lunch program. If we refuse to acknowledge that different cultures have different customs pertaining to food animals, then maybe it’s just that we’d rather the Muslims didn’t consider themselves welcome in our communities.

  • I think you’re being disingenuous if you’re claiming that you didn’t realize these anti-kosher and anti-halal campaigns have always been tools of right-wing repression of hated minorities in Europe. Hitler passed one of the first such laws in Nazi Germany in 1933. Can you at least admit that this complicates the issue quite dramatically? Or do you have such contempt for Muslims and Jews that you really don’t give a damn whether they feel welcome in Europe or the UK?

  • Stephen Mynett

    Crap, I said nothing of the sort, I am well aware of the tactics of the right but just because the right is against non-stunned meat for purely cynical and racist reasons should not stop those of us who oppose non-stunned slaughter on ethical grounds.
    You do not know me so to make claims I have contempt for Muslims and Jews is utterly childish, as such I will not waste my time replying to any further troll-like posts from you, I do not believe you have a genuine interest in this but are just stirring shit for the sake of it.

  • Again, you’re just blithely handwaving away any concerns anyone might have about whether these sorts of measures are advancing a right wing anti-immigrant agenda.

  • Bubblecar

    The only Halal and Kosher food practices that should be banned are those that entail unnecessary animal suffering, compared with non-religious practices. The conflict is then resolved, but this is apparently too easy for some activists.

    Muslims and Jews are free to follow the rest of their food rules, but at the same time rational people are free to criticise them as superstitious.

    It’s important not to confuse religion (which consists of debatable ideas) with race, an ostensibly biological category.

    Unfortunately, advocates for religions associated with ethnic minorities have a strong tendency to seek protection for their religious ideas under the category of “race”, and this is something we need to resist.

    It’s perfectly possible to do so while also condemning the bigoted views of genuine racists.

  • I happen to agree with you about the animal rights issue, but I’m still very suspicious that the subject of animal rights only comes up when it can be used as a screw-you to Muslims and Jews. Neither this article nor the Freethinker’s recent article on the Belgian ban on halal and kosher butchers even bothered to mention that far-right politicians were the sponsors of these pieces of legislation, or that they’re in a long tradition of racist vendettas in Europe to demonize Jews and Muslims.

    I never said Jews or Muslims are a race. Neither are “immigrants” or “terrorists,” but it would be ludicrous to deny that our culture’s discourse about immigration and terrorism is sodden with racism too. We in the atheist blogosphere seem none too careful to steer clear of the fear-the-brown-people rhetoric, and we should be circumspect about siding with right-wingers against marginalized minorities.

    The only reason there are laws in the West protecting religious minorities in the first place is that there’s an understanding that the majority has a vested interest in instilling conformity of opinion and behavior. It’s too bad that a blog called The Freethinker has no problem with the majority in the UK imposing its will on minorities, and ignores the danger of allowing the right wing to further its agenda.

  • Sophotroph

    The fact is, it doesn’t matter if this law is being sponsored by the reanimated corpse of Adolf Hitler for the express purpose of glorifying the new Zombie Reich.

    If they want to do one thing right, by accident, why not let them?

  • Cali Ron

    In America they use a device that you place against the skull and it uses blunt force to render the cow unconscious, then they cut the throat and bleed it out.
    I am amused that people are worried about how an animal is killed before you eat it’s flesh.
    Isn’t eating the animal a little inhumane?
    Disclaimer: Before I get attacked I am not advocating for animal cruelty. Merely pointing out the hypocrisy.

  • You’re right. Even Peta UK says that’s a distinction without a difference. It seems like the politicians that are making the most noise about this oh-so-important matter are more concerned about demonizing immigrants than about protecting animals.

  • persephone

    F**k PETA. They would rather kill animals than allow them to be pets. They dognapped and killed a man’s pet, right off the front steps of the home. They kill over 80% (probably higher) of the animals they take into their shelters.

  • Some guy
  • persephone

    Ingrid Newkirk didn’t get along with her parents (they were supposed to have been cold and distant; typical upper class British twits) and found comfort in her pet dog. Yet, she campaigns that no animal should be a pet.

    She’s a vegan, but animals still die for vegan food, which doesn’t seem to bother her.

  • Raging Bee

    Are we really sure that sort of knockout really is less cruel or painful? What if it just leaves the animal brain-damaged and befuddled but still able to feel pain? Yes, we see people getting knocked unconscious and recovering fully on TV all the time — but does it really work that way? I certainly don’t remember hearing about footballers and soldiers getting hit on the head and just going to sleep.

  • Raging Bee

    Aren’t kosher rules pretty similar to halal rules? Is there any controversy about providing kosher meats?

  • Supposedly kosher butchers aren’t allowed to stun animals before slaughtering, while halal butchers aren’t uniform in their practices. PETA UK makes it sound like the emphasis on stunning is missing the point:

    Don’t get us wrong, as long as animals are still killed for food, stopping the most inhumane slaughter methods – in which cows and other animals have their throats cut while they’re still conscious – would be a step in the right direction, but even in conventional abattoirs, millions of animals are improperly stunned in the UK every year and face the fatal incision awake, alert and terrified.

    And let’s not forget that the actual slaughter, whether the animal is stunned and killed or just killed, is only part of the long and blatantly cruel process of modern meat production. At the “best” of times, meat is a product of a bloody and violent industry with no respect for other living beings who value their lives in the same way that we do and experience the same pain and terror that we would if we were killed for a sandwich or a pizza topping.

    And whatever you think about PETA, they’re making a rational case that the stunning matter needs to be seen in the context of food-animal treatment in general. Arguing that kosher and halal butchers are barbaric, while conventional meat production methods are just peachy, is ignoring a mountain of evidence.

  • Elizabeth A. Root

    I am not impressed by PETA, and I am not impressed by your tendencious arguments, either.

    From what I have read of your remarks, here and other places, I suspect that being contrary makes you feel superior.

  • Um, you’re responding to me on a discussion that’s meant to pander to people’s fear, hatred, and mistrust of Muslims and Jews. But it’s my air of superiority that you find objectionable?

  • Elizabeth A. Root

    I think that other commenters have made remarks that cast doubt on the assumption that you are making that this is “meant to pander to people’s fear, hatred, and mistrust of Muslims and Jews.” Just because Mussolini famously got the trains to run on time doesn’t mean that trains that keep to the schedule are a sign on fascism. The relationship between the religious and the secular is always going to be tricky — someone was recently complaining that religious prison inmates are given more time out of their cells than non-religious since they are attending to religious obligations. At least the secular prisoners could get equal time to sit around and shoot the breeze or discuss books — or whatever.

    I must admit that it never occurred to me to concern myself with alternate methods of killing livestock; as far as I know, we allow halaI and kosher butchering here in the USA, unless it’s changed recently. I don’t see where PETA’s comments about the whole process are relevant, since stun or non-stun, has no affect on any other aspect of raising meat animals. Stun sounds more humane to me, but I admit to my ignorance. If the British standard is stun, I don’t know that you can assume that that isn’t as deeply held a belief as a religious belief.

    Well, let’s look at some other things that people do and defend because of their culture/religion, and see if you think they are racist/oppressive when the government blocks them:

    Refuse to meet government educational standards in schools because they are to busy studying religious texts to waste time on practical skills like mathematics;
    Refuse to get standard medical care for one’s children on the theory that god(s) will take care of it if they deserve to live;
    Beat them severely to exorcise demons;
    Kill them while exorcising demons;
    Perform female genital mutilations;
    Marry off minors in arranged marriages (like a 10-year-old and a 12-year-old to men in their mid twenties);
    Violently force young women into marriages;
    Shoot, set on fire to, and run over “wayward” daughters with their cars.

    There also used to be a sect in the southwest that hung someone on a cross (with ropes) every Good Friday to commemorate Jesus’ crucifixion. It was a big honor to be chosen. The Feds told them, that particularly considering the heat, this was done outdoors, they could only do it for three hours, not all day.