Lancashire County Council’s cabinet has decided that only stunned halal meat should be provided to schools.
The decision affects the supply of halal meat to 27 schools by the council’s catering service, where there is the demand for it from the Muslim community and where the headteacher and governing body request this for a proportion of children on the basis of their religious belief.
When the contract to provide non-stunned halal meat came due for renewal last year, the council agreed a resolution not to provide meat, other than poultry, to county council establishments unless animals are stunned before they are slaughtered.
The resolution was not implemented, with a consultation being held to inform the council’s future policy. The council is currently supplying halal meat under the terms of the contract which was in place before the resolution being agreed.
The cabinet considered reports outlining the background to the issue, as well as an independent analysis of responses received during the four-week consultation held earlier this year.
County Councillor Geoff Driver, leader of Lancashire County Council, said: “We supply halal meat to a small number of schools where it is served in dishes as one of a number of options able to be chosen by students whose parents have specifically requested it.
“The 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 not to supply unstunned meat, other than poultry, to our schools.
“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.
“There are also differences of opinion as to what constitutes humane slaughter, which is why we previously referred the matter to the full council so that all councillors could vote according to their view.
“I’m grateful to the many people who have taken the time to respond to the consultation. It has confirmed that people have strong views on this issue from a number of different perspectives, and provides a useful guide as to how people whose children receive halal school meals may respond to the decision which cabinet has taken.
“We accept that a small number of schools may choose to use different suppliers for halal meat, however we hope that people understand how the council has arrived at this decision, which has been taken solely on the grounds of animal welfare with due consideration for the impacts outlined in the responses to the consultation.
“We would like to work with the Lancashire Council of Mosques to ensure that the meals we supply to the affected schools in future provide a range of nutritious options which satisfy students’ dietary requirements and are acceptable to LCM, parents and governors.”
The policy will be implemented from the start of the new school term in September.