A COMPANY that uses meat slaughtered in a controversial way for dinners at 50 county schools is to remove it from the menu after concerns from parents and headteachers.
Class Catering has decided to stop using halal meat - the type preferred by Jews and Muslims - after receiving about a dozen calls objecting to it. The Worcester News revealed last week that school children at 38 primary, 18 middle and 20 high schools in Worcestershire are regularly fed halal meat.
Halal refers to the slaughter method - it involves cutting the animal's neck, arteries and oesophagus and draining all its blood without the animal being stunned. Some believe this causes the animal considerable suffering, but supporters believe it is a more hygienic and kinder method of slaughter.
Fred Capewell, managing director of Class Catering, which is based in Bromsgrove, said: "We have had a number of parents and headteachers raise concerns, but a relatively low number in comparison to the number of schools we cater for. They were all against the method of slaughter used in halal products.
"In view of that, we are removing halal from the menu, but we are mindful of the fact that there are pupils with specific dietary requirements - whether religious or because of allergies and so on - and we will continue to cater for their needs." Mr Capewell stressed that the only meal Class Catering supplied with halal meat was the roast chicken dinner, which was only a menu option about once every three weeks.
"Our concern was that parents would take their child out of the school dinner system and so we have reacted to that."
Martin Roberts, organiser of the city's BNP, last week said he was appalled to hear pupils are being 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, and these choices must be respected," he said. But Malik Fayaz, chairman of the Muslim Welfare Association in Worcester, said halal killing was the most humane way of slaughtering animals.
"The whole principle of halal is that it does not cause the animal undue pain," he said. There is even a suggestion that as the blood is drained so much, the meat is much purer and more hygienic."
Class Catering provides meals to the following schools, which appeared on a list in the Worcester News last week: Primary schools: St Ann's CE First, Bewdley; Claines CE Primary; Chawson First and St Peter's CE First, Droitwich; St Andrew's CE and St Richard's CE First, Evesham; Foley Park First, St Mary's CE First, St Oswald's First, The Marlpool First, Offmore First, The Sutton Park First, all in Kidderminster; The Holy Redeemer RC, Pershore; Pinvin CE First; St Barnabas CE Primary, St George's CE Primary, St Joseph's RC Primary, all in Worcester.
Middle schools: St Anne's CE Middle, Bewdley; St Barnabas, Drakes Broughton; Witton Middle, Droitwich; Simon De Montfort Middle, Evesham; Birchen Coppice Middle, St John's CE Middle, Sion Hill Middle, all in Kidderminster; St Nicholas CE Middle, Pinvin.
High schools: Droitwich High; King Charles I High, Kidderminster; Bishop Perowne College, Worcester.