Welfare and religion conflict over Somerville JCR food motion

College News News

A motion was put forward to the Somerville JCR that would require the JCR to demand the college administration to provide: lactose free, gluten free, halal and kosher food options in the dining hall.

After voting, the motion passed, twenty-nine to two, with two amendments. The final amendment, taken as friendly, was to demand college for all food options listed above but with the proviso that any meat was to be pre-stunned before slaughter. This amendment was proposed because many in the college deemed religious slaughter of animals taking place without pre-stunning an unnecessary form of cruelty. It is important to realise that Somerville does currently provide Kosher food in Formal dinners for those who require it.

The atmosphere in the meeting was relatively calm and friendly. However, some parties who did not attend the meeting voiced their dissatisfaction with the vote via social media. This point led one party to ask: “So the JCR cares more about animals than its Jewish members?”

This was met with the statement: “Religious thoughts were put aside for the sakes of animal welfare, quite rightly”.

The JCR committee learnt that an unspecified number of people had allegedly voiced their concerns about the meeting’s outcome to the BAME Officer. In response, an emergency JCR meeting was called to discuss the fallout. It was determined that many in the meeting did not realise that many Jewish people believe Kosher food must not be pre-stunned before slaughter. Herein lies the point of contention.

The JCR president encouraged anyone that felt aggrieved at the meeting’s outcome to make their concerns known to them. This episode raises many pertinent questions that have been asked at a governmental and societal level for decades, namely, which should be valued more, animal welfare of religious beliefs?

The college administration has since put forward proposals to provide more lactose-free options and gluten-free bread. Moreover, a feasibility analysis is being conducted concerning pre-stunned halal and an upon-request kosher system is being investigated and has the full support of the JCR.