CAIRO – A group of British schools have decided to ban pork from meals served to students, citing “cultural” and “religious” reasons to drop traditional sausages and ham from children’s lunches.
Haringey, north London has issued "best practice" advice to all schools in its area to “ban all pork products in order to cater for the needs of staff and pupils who are not permitted contact with these for religious reasons,” the Daily Telegraph reported.
The new decision was issued by Haringey council banning pork from school dinners even where the majority of parents have no religious objection to it.
Citing cultural and religious reasons, head teachers decided to drop traditional sausages and ham from children’s lunches.
The guidance does not specify what proportion of a school’s intake should object to the meat - which is not eaten by devout Muslims or Jews - before it is dropped.
Pabulum, a school caterer in south-east England, said that around 20 of the 48 primary schools it supplied chose only non-pork lunches.
Most serve no halal or kosher meat, however, so many Muslim or Jewish pupils would not be able to eat the dishes anyway.
In Luton, 23 out of 57 schools which contract their dinners from the local authority have a “no pork” policy.
In Bradford the figure is 24 out of 160; in Newham, east London, it is 25 out of 75; in Tower Hamlets, east London, it is 85 out of 90. In Haringey’s infant, junior and primary schools, 37 out of 47 serve no pork.
At Cypress Junior School, in Croydon, south London, Nicky Godetz, the head teacher, announced in this month’s newsletter that the school had opted for a pork-free menu “as a result of pupil and parental feedback”.
“The sausages served will now be chicken rather than pork,” she added.
Britain is home to a sizable Muslim minority, estimated at nearly 2.5 million.
According to the Islamic and Jewish ritual, the animal is slaughtered by a sharp blade.
Muslims should only eat meat from livestock slaughtered by a sharp knife from their necks, and the name of Allah, the Arabic word for God, must be mentioned.
The new guidance was criticized by Conservative lawmaker Philip Davies who described the pork bans as “misguided political correctness”.
“Whilst I very much agree that pupils should be able to choose not to have pork, I believe it is totally wrong for schools to in effect force all pupils to abide by the religious beliefs of some by denying them the opportunity to choose to have pork,” he said.
“This is the type of misguided political correctness which builds up resentments which otherwise would not exist, and I very much hope these schools will change their stance and allow pupils a much more free choice.”
Stewart Houston, the chief executive of the National Pig Association, which represents commercial producers, also criticized the ban.
“It is disappointing that schools cannot be sufficiently organised to give children a choice of meat. Sausages and roast pork are staples of a British diet and children enjoy eating them,” Houston said.
“If products can be labeled with warnings that they contain nuts and vegetarian dishes can be made and kept separate from meat dishes, I don’t see why the same can’t apply to pork.”
However, Muslim and Jewish leaders said they had never asked for schools to ban pork.
In its most recent report on “meeting the needs of Muslim pupils in state schools”, the Muslim Council of Britain asked only for halal and non-halal meat to be handled separately, to avoid contamination, and for clear labeling.
Jon Benjamin, the chief executive of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, agreed.
“This is simply not an issue. Jews of a certain level of observance would not eat in non-kosher restaurants or dining halls,” he said.
"Children at mainstream school who are bothered would probably have packed lunches.
"Children who are comfortable with using the same cutlery and crockery as everyone else would choose their dishes from the options available. It is live and let live - we are certainly not calling for this.”
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