Halal row forces sourcing rethink

A catering supplier in Worcester has been forced to review its current position with some of its 50 school customers following an investigation by a local member of the British National Party into how meat on school menus is slaughtered.

Fred Capewell, managing director of Class Catering in Bromsgrove, said that a number of parents and headteachers had contacted him following the publishing of a list that revealed more than 70 schools were serving meat slaughtered using the halal method, unknown to the pupils and their parents.

Capewell said: "We have been asked by some schools to take it off the menus, but we have not taken it off wholesale. "We have written to the schools saying we will provide it unless they stipulate that they don't want it. What we will do is to identify the halal product on the school menu so that they can make an informed choice about what they are eating." He argued the situation had been "blown out of proportion", considering the very small amount of halal meat that his company supplied.

Martin Roberts, of the BNP, initiated the investigation saying he was "shocked" after he found out about the halal method of slaughtering animals and was lobbying the government to ban it. Information requested by Roberts from the Freedom of Information Act via Worcester County Council revealed 38 primary, 18 middle and 20 high schools routinely served halal meat.

Roberts insisted his line of inquiry had nothing to do with religion or race and said some people had wrongly interpreted his investigation as political. "This is an issue of animal welfare," he claimed. Roberts added he was appalled to hear that pupils were served halal meat without being informed. "Choosing to eat stunned meat is often a conscious choice, just like a Muslim's choice to eat halal meat," he said.

While the Muslim religion believes the Halal method to be a kinder and more hygienic slaughter practice some groups have argued the practice causes animals suffering and in 2003 the Farm Animal Welfare Council (FAWC) called on the government to ban the practice.

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