Animal welfare, religious tolerance and political correctness all seem to be conflicting with each other in Britain as politicians, educators and community leaders try to balance dietary customs and liberal values. While the government tries to find a way to accommodate Jewish and Muslim ritual slaughter and at the same time conform with what they see as acceptable limits on cruelty to animals, schools across London are taking pork sausages, a long-time staple of children’s meals, off the menu.
Two reports over the weekend highlight the clash. The Sunday Telegraph reported that in many areas of Britain’s capital, schools were being advised by their local councils, or deciding on their own initiative, to ban all pork products from their menus. This move was out of consideration to Jewish and Muslim children and teachers yet has not been taken following official requests by either community. While many see this as another admirable effort by local British authorities to exhibit sensitivity towards religious and ethnical minorities, the move has attracted criticism from Conservative politicians and farmers’ associations who see this as yet another attempt to encroach upon the traditional British way of life, in this case embodied by the good old bangers and mash, in the name of multiculturalism.
Indeed, for all devout Jews and Muslims, this will not render the school meals more palatable, as non-Kosher and non-halal meat, beef, lamb or chicken, will still be on the menu. Jon Benjamin, the chief executive of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, told the newspaper that “this is simply not an issue. Jews of a certain level of observance would not eat in non-kosher restaurants or dining halls. Children at mainstream schools 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.” (Benjamin is probably referring here to the custom of some Jews who don’t keep kosher in any halachic sense, but will not eat pork all the same).
For more, go to Haaretz.com