GROUPS have criticised the serving of non-stunned halal meat in Bradford Council's schools.

Freedom of information research by the National Secular Society (NSS) found that at least 17 councils across the UK are supplying non-stunned halal meat to dozens of schools.

The NSS said non-stunned meat is reaching at least 140 schools, the significant majority of which are not Islamic faith schools.

It said too many councils had bowed to a hardline interpretation of Islam, adding that the government should repeal the religious exemption to the UK's animal welfare laws.

NSS chief executive Stephen Evans said: "A significant number of councils are helping the non-stun slaughter industry to expand the supply of inhumanely slaughtered meat. If slaughter without stunning is to be permitted, no more animals should be slaughtered under the religious exemption than is absolutely necessary to meet demand.

"Councils shouldn't be supplying meat from non-stun slaughter en masse, particularly when a majority of Muslims are content with pre-stunned meat. Too many local authorities' catering policies are favouring those pushing a more hardline interpretation of Islam."

The Federation of Veterinarians of Europe has called non-stun slaughter "unacceptable under any circumstances". The RSPCA, Compassion in World Farming and the British Veterinary Association also advocate for all animals to be stunned prior to slaughter.

The Bradford Branch of the Indian Workers Association also joined the criticism.

In a statement it said: "The IWA (GB) Bradford Branch is stunned to know that non-stunned meat is being still served in Bradford Metropolitan Schools. We think this is the medieval practice being allowed by Bradford Metropolitan Council.

"Bradford Metropolitan Council has an 87-page manual which insists that animals must not be stunned before slaughtered. NSS wrote to council in November 2017 to stop supplying non-stun meat and nothing has been done so far.

"The IWA (GB) Bradford Branch wants to know from Bradford Council whether this policy had been agreed by all the faith groups in Bradford or not. If not, why not? Are the parents of all religious faiths are aware of this policy?

"The parents of Bradford Metropolitan Council parents have the right to know. We know many parents of some faiths would not approve this policy.

"The IWA (GB) deplore this policy which disregards the sufferings of animals in this age. The IWA thinks slaughtering animals non-stunned is the very cruel way of killing animals for pleasure or religious rituals and we must give consideration to the unnecessary sufferings of animals."

A spokesperson for Bradford Council confirmed that meat served in schools is not stunned.

They said: “Bradford Council has a duty to cater for children’s religious belief when providing school meals and we take this very seriously. We have worked on this issue with the Bradford Council for Mosques for over 30 years as they are best placed to ensure that our schools are meeting the needs of children from the Muslim community.

“The suppliers of halal meat for Bradford Council’s school meals are inspected and certified by the Halal Monitoring Committee, just like hundreds of other organisations across the country. All meat slaughtered in the UK has to abide by national regulations, which are enforced by Official Veterinarians of the Food Standards Agency.

“Where Bradford Council provides the catering for schools, halal meat is provided for Muslim pupils and an alternative non-halal meat choice is also available. Halal meat is not served to all schools in the district.”