Lancashire County Council’s cabinet has decided that most halal meat provided to schools must be from animals stunned before slaughter, in a move likely to cause controversy with Muslim communities.
The Lancashire Council of Mosques has said it will consider seeking judicial review.
Lancashire said the decision affected the supply of halal meat other than poultry to 27 schools by the council’s catering service.
The cabinet took its decision despite a public consultation that showed 65% of respondents disagreed with the proposal.
Stunning is controversial among some Muslims as to whether the meat concerned is then religiously acceptable.
Lancashire’s full council voted last autumn not to provide meat, other than poultry, unless animals were stunned before slaughter. But that was not implemented, pending the consultation.
Leader Geoff Driver (Con) (pictured) said: “The [catering] contract becoming due for renewal has given us the opportunity to consider the animal welfare issues surrounding the supply of halal meat, and on this basis the cabinet has voted to support the council’s previous resolution.
“It is clear that there is much debate about what constitutes halal, with different approaches taken by religious certifying authorities within the UK, and other standards applied elsewhere in the world, where in some countries all animals must be stunned before slaughter, with much of the meat produced also being accepted as halal.”
Cllr Driver said the decision had been taken “solely on the grounds of animal welfare”.
Lancashire Council of Mosques acting chief executive Abdul Hamid Qureshi told LGC: “We are exploring all the options, findings alternative food for these children, political protest and we may go to judicial review.”
He stressed the strong opposition showing to the idea in the consultation and said Cllr Driver was dictatorially imposing his will in face of public opinion.
“This is not really about animal welfare, that is not their real agenda,” Mr Qureshi added.
Lancashire’s stance won support from the National Secular Society, whose chief executive Stephen Evans said: “It’s reassuring to see Lancashire councillors voting to pursue the council’s ethical policy on the provision of halal meat in schools, and facing down orchestrated efforts to ensure school meals in the county comply with a hardline form of Islam.”
He said the law should ban the sale of meat from un-stunned animals, rather than this decision being left to councils.