The Daily Mail article, titled ‘A ban on bangers: Hundreds of school pupils denied pork because of ‘religious reasons’, stated the following:
“Roast pork and sausages have always been a staple of British diets.
“But now hundreds of school children will be denied them for school lunches because of 'religious reasons'.
“Pork, which is not eaten by devout Jews or Muslims, has been banned by councils across the country to satisfy the needs of staff and pupils who are not allowed contact with it.
“However, it is thought many schools do not serve halal or kosher meat, so Jewish and Muslim children would not be able to eat it anyway.
“The decision has been criticised by MPs who have said the ban will cause unnecessary resentment among pupils and religious leaders who said they never asked for a ban in the first place.
“John Benjamin, chief executive of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, said it was simply not an issue and added that Jews of a certain level would choose not to eat in non-kosher environments.
“'Children at mainstream school who are bothered would probably have packed lunches,' he said to the Sunday Telegraph.
“Muslim leaders have only ever asked that halal and non-halal meat be handled separately in an effort to avoid any cross contamination and for clear labelling when serving school dinners.
“in Tower Hamlets, east London, 85 out of 90 [schools] do not offer a pork option. All schools offer a vegetarian option.
“Conservative MP for Shipley in West Yorkshire, Philip Davies, who has campaigned for clearer labelling on meat products said the bans were 'misguided political correctness'.
“Mr Davies said decisions like these could cause resentment among pupils and added that he hoped schools would change their stance.”
Responding to the claims made in the article, Mayor Lutfur Rahman writes on his blog:
“Heaven forbid that truth should be allowed to get in the way of a good story! Had the journalists concerned bothered to contact the council, they would have discovered the unpalatable truth for them, that there is no ban on pork sausages whatsoever.”
Mayor Rahman argued that lack of demand for pork in schools in the borough was the reason for its absence on school menus.
“At a time when there are severe pressures on local authority budgets, Why should our council be obliged to waste money on unwanted pork sausages in order to placate the divisive agendas of the Daily Mail and the Daily Telegraph? Perhaps it is time for both newspapers to start reporting on serious stories that might actually interest their readers and be relevant to their readers.”
The story on a ‘pork ban’ comes at a time in which the religious dietary requirements of Muslims have been put under the spotlight amidst public calls to curb ‘ritual slaughter’. Moreover, Rahman’s irritation at the Daily Mail and the Daily Telegraph is not at all misguided. The Daily Mail has been relentless in its alarmist reporting on the issue of halal meat, and both papers have shown a readiness to use religion as a scapegoat.
For example, in April, both the Daily Mail and the Daily Telegraph reported on considerations for a ‘ban’ on alcohol at London Metropolitan University ‘because it offends their Muslim students’. In reality, considerations had simply been made for ‘alcohol-free zones’ because of perceived ‘cultural sensitivities’; sensitivities that were argued for by the university’s vice chancellor, not its Muslim student population. Such irresponsible and poor journalism only serves to entrench false notions of Britain being ‘Islamised’, a notion that animates far right movements and parties like the English Defence League and the British National Party. Lutfur Rahman is absolutely right to castigate the Daily Mail and Daily Telegraph for pursuing ‘divisive agendas’ knowing full well, given the EDL’s demonstration in East London last year, the potency and consequences of this kind of populist journalism.