A meaty question

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When out knocking on doors today, asking people if they had any issues they wanted to raise with their local councillor, a fellow-canvasser was told that the nearby school should serve halal meat. The voter’s argument was that the majority of pupils were Muslims. This was politely noted.

Had it been me canvassing that person I would not have been able to appear at all receptive to this demand. In fact I would probably have found it hard to restrain my anger at the suggestion that securing halal lunches was more important than safeguarding free school meals, the local Sure Start centre or youth clubs.

Being a liberal sort of society, people are allowed to follow a religion which requires them to kill animals for meat in a manner different to standard practice and which sits uncomfortably with the laws on animal welfare. People are even (mistakenly, IMO) allowed to have state-funded faith schools where conformity to these sorts of cultural norms are more rigorously enforced.

However, the school in question is not a faith one. Altering its catering policy to comply with the demands of religious parents – even if they did happen to form a majority – would be a mistake.

As a secularist, I dislike seeing publicly funded institutions bowing to the demands of the religious. Accepting a new dietary regime because of religious pressure may only encourage other changes to be sought – perhaps to the curriculum, the teaching style or the use of facilities.

At my next school governors’ meeting I will definitely be seeking to establish where any meat in the meals is sourced.

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