Defra grants �366,000 to Halal food park in Banham
Up to 60 new jobs could be created in Banham after the government awarded more than �350,000 to a European Halal Food Park.
Officials at Defra defended the grant of �366,000, which is aimed to promote growth in rural areas.
The money comes from the Rural Development Programme for England (RDPE) and will be used to buy equipment to make burgers and sausages in the park's meat processing facility.
A spokesman for the government department said the cash would not be spent at Simply Halal's abattoir site in Banham, which slaughters animals according to Islamic law.
A Defra spokesman said: 'We awarded business development funding to this company to improve its processes for making burgers and sausages, which would create 60 much-needed jobs in a very rural area as well as supporting Norfolk livestock farmers.'
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'We would prefer to see all animals stunned before slaughter but respect the rights of the Jewish and Muslim communities to eat meat prepared in accordance with their religious beliefs.'
Defra has awarded the grant on the basis that the funding will not to be used in any part of the abattoir operation and that the company will create 60 new full-time jobs over the next three years.
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The money will also be match funded by the company and the investment will support local farmers in an area where there are not many meat processing facilities, the spokesman added.
The funding was part of a �2m series of projects supporting four other meat processors developed by the East of England Development Agency before responsibility for RDPE funding transferred to Defra.
The European Halal Food Park at Moor Farm, in The Moor, Banham, near Attleborough, was approved two years ago to cater for the growing demand for Halal beef and sheep meat in the UK
The company's website says that it 'boasts the only dedicated 100pc non-stun abattoir for beef and lamb in the UK' with the Halal Burger Company opening in July and the Halal Sausage Company and the Halal Pet Food Company opening last month.
The firm added that it supports British farmers and was given full Defra approval in June following an inspection to appraise animal welfare standards and the ritual slaughter process.
The Defra spokesman added that the government has no plans to ban religious slaughter of animals. However, changes to all rules on welfare at slaughter will be required when a new EU Regulation on welfare at the time of killing comes into effect in January 2013.