Leaders nationally have slammed Lancashire County Council’s decision to ban non-mechanically stunned meat from schools.
Board of Deputies Vice President Marie van der Zyl met Council leader Geoff Driver to discuss the Council’s decision this week.
Jonny Wineberg, Jewish Representative Council chair of executive, Aaron Bass of Shechita UK and Daniel Elton, BoD Government Affairs Officer also attended the meeting.
“I remain troubled by Councillor Driver’s dismissive attitude,” said Ms Van der Zyl.
“He refused to see the danger of his assertion that Jewish and Muslim councillors could not be objective because of their faiths. He also stood by polarising and divisive language that can only harm community relations.
“Our elected representatives should be taking a lead on how to treat others with respect. Councillor Driver has failed to do that on this occasion.”
The Jewish communal delegation described the Council leaders’ comments on non-mechanically pre-stunned slaughter as ‘cruel’ and ‘abhorrent’.
“We found Councillor Driver unable to recognise the repercussions of comments that Councillors of faith were unable to be objective in their roles,” said Mr Wineberg.
“Whilst he said that this was about politics not religion and apologised “if anyone was offended,” we do not deem that a sufficient apology.
“Indeed, he backtracked on this at the meeting saying that he stood by his comments! We believe that his use of divisive language is not in keeping with his position.”
Mr Wineberg added, “In the North West, we have a great recent record of building bridges between faith communities and improving understanding and respect for diverse views and practices.
“It is concerning to have a situation in Lancashire schools where children will now be told that the practice of their faith is not compatible with the view of local government.
“We hope that this misjudged decision will be overturned at the earliest possible opportunity.”
Both the Board and Representative Council are writing to Councillor Driver noting their views and have committed work with colleagues to protect the Jewish community’s rights.
In a further local twist, Rabbi Arnold Saunders, who is a Tory Councillor on the Salford City Council, has connections to Lancashire Jewry through official civic ceremonies such as Holocaust Memorial Day.
“The decision back in October is shocking and misguided and has deep ramifications not only for the future of ritual slaughter but also community relations in the region,” he said.
“The irony on this is not lost on me because Lancashire County Council has at least one slaughter house where Jewish ritual slaughter takes place.
“In my view a council should not interfere with decisions that are the remit of the government.”