Geoff Driver, Lancashire county council’s Tory leader, last week announced that Muslim school children in the county would now only have access to what he termed “ethical” halal meat.
Previously decisions over what is or is not considered halal have been taken in consultation with Lancashire Council of Mosques. Driver has broken with this longstanding practice. Instead he has placed himself in the position of arbiter over what counts as halal.
Driver claims his decision is about “ethics” and the humane treatment of animals. This relates to whether animals are stunned before slaughter.
Of course it is right to expect the highest standards of treatment for animals within farming and the food industry. From factory farming to mass transport of livestock over hundreds of miles to conditions at slaughterhouses, animals are often treated badly.
But this has nothing to do with the meat being halal or kosher. This attack has nothing to do with animal rights. It’s an attack on cultural practices.
The law gives both Muslim and Jewish communities exemption on the requirement to stun. It is up to Jewish and Muslim communities to decide what counts as kosher or halal meat, not Tory politicians.
Driver’s coded attacks on halal practices come in the run up to May’s county council elections. The Tories are staring defeat in the face.
The results for UKIP and the far right in recent by-elections also provide context for Driver’s outburst. Facing electoral defeat, Lancashire Tories are employing “dog whistle” politics to stir up Islamophobia and racial tensions.
We need to be clear that decisions about cultural practices within minority communities are the preserve of those communities themselves—not desperate politicians playing racist games to try and get re-elected.
Michael Lavalette, Preston
While I welcome your feature about Victor Serge, your article presents him as far less critical of the Bolshevik Party and their policies than he actually was.
While Serge understood the need to be in the Bolshevik Party, he was equally a constant critic of the Bolsheviks. Serge supported the Workers’ Opposition, which by early 1921 was being forced out of the party, labelled an “anarcho-syndicalist deviation”.
He, unlike Trotsky, could see how even in 1920 the Bolshevik Party was already becoming overly bureaucratic and authoritarian. Your article also fails to mention what is arguably his most famous quote:
“It is often said that ‘the germ of all Stalinism was in Bolshevism at its beginning’. Well, I have no objection. Only, Bolshevism also contained many other germs… To judge the living man by the death germs which the autopsy reveals in the corpse—and which he may have carried in him since his birth—is that very sensible?”
Josh Moos, north London
Here In Lambeth we are fighting the council’s plans to introduce time-limited tenancies in council housing.
Council housing has provided generations of working people with a secure, affordable home. But the Tories want time limits and for the housing to be available to no one but a small number of the most vulnerable applicants.
This is a national attack that the government is prodding all councils to implement. Shamefully some Labour councils have already signed up.
We need to defend secure tenancies for all—including private sector tenants. It matters even more with the cuts in housing benefit on the way.
Tenants who aren’t protected will be more at risk of eviction in the face of these benefit cuts.
Stephen Hack, south London
I’ve been saying similar things to you over the Leveson Inquiry’s press regulation proposals.
As so many times over the decades, Labour has given the left a bad name by supporting the Leveson recommendations of state regulation of the press.
State regulation of the press is a bad idea when corporatism is rife and any regulation would strengthen corporate power.
I’ve even heard some on the left float the idea of licensing newspapers. That’s a dumb suggestion considering that the establishment would ensure it was only the rich who could afford the licence to print.
Sophia C Botha by email
I wonder how many people across Britain will have had the same Christmas present as me. My landlord has just told me that unless I move to a house with a single bedroom, I’m going to have to find an extra £11.50 a week from my already stretched benefits.
But there’s nothing to be found anywhere near here. As a disabled person I get lots of support from family and friends living locally. If I’m forced to move I’ll lose that.
It seems it’s alright for MPs to get second homes on expenses but not for me to keep just one. Time we got a real campaign going.
D Berry, address withheld
News that the government has approved widespread “fracking” across Britain should scare us all. Fracking—drilling for shale gas—was put on hold after apparently causing earthquakes in Blackpool as well as water contamination.
Now the Tories want to roll it out over 60?percent of the country as part of their energy “revolution”. What the effects of this will be are anyone’s guess.
Sarah Johnson, east London
More than two years into the coalition, I hoped the Tories would be done for by now. But they’re still coming at us. Let’s make 2013 a year of struggle and bring down this rotten government.
Dot Richards, Manchester
I was fascinated to read your article about the failures of genetic research. However I have to say that I’m also glad that the NHS is putting money into this kind of cutting edge research over diseases.
That’s not because I agree with David Cameron that we should “lead the global race”. But surely the more science, the better?
Adam Wheeler, Sheffield
There are serious problems with the involvement of capitalist corporations in scientific research. But the irrational attack on science in your article on genetics is rather worrying.
The fact that there are “so few” genes involved does not affect the statistical complexity that results from them. Rather than attacking science and scientific methods, the left should be promoting objective and critical thinking.
Derek Lee, west London