'Boycott school meals' call in Lancashire halal meat row
Calls have been made for a boycott of school meals in Lancashire after councillors voted to ban unstunned halal meat from its kitchens.
Lancashire County Council made the decision to stop using it in 27 council-run schools last month.
They described the practice of not stunning animals before slaughtering them as "abhorrent" and "really cruel".
Lancashire Council of Mosques said the decision would "only serve to increase Islamophobia and anti-Semitism".
The group said the decision, which will take effect from December, meant the council would stop providing meals "in accordance with the universal criteria of Halal".
LCOM's chief executive officer Abdul Hamid Qureshi said: "Our advice to the community is to stop school meals as soon as this occurs and campaign for change.
"We recognise that this will have a significant impact on schools across Lancashire and, more importantly, on the children.
"We are committed to continue working with schools and regret the impact this will have."
Unstunned halal meat is currently supplied to 12,000 pupils at 27 schools in Blackburn, Nelson, Burnley, Rawtenstall, Hyndburn, Clitheroe and Preston.
On 26 October, a meeting of the full council backed a move not to provide meat to any of its kitchens "unless the animal was stunned before it was slaughtered".
Susie Charles, the council's cabinet member for children, young people and schools, said she could see "no reason" for a boycott.
"There is always a choice of meals anyway, including vegetarian options. It's a very short-sighted view and it's depriving children of good nutritious food," she said.
"Eighty-four per cent of halal meat in the country is currently stunned. Also, in New Zealand, all their lamb is stunned, and Saudi Arabia buys New Zealand lamb. If Saudis can eat stunned meat, I don't see why people in Lancashire can't."
The Conservative councillor also rejected LCOM's claim that the council's decision would result in more fear or hatred of Muslims or Jews.
She said: "I don't see why it should. And why are they bringing the Jews into it? We don't supply any kosher food at all. The Jews buy their own food for their schools."
Council leader Geoff Driver said the decision was "democratic" and a "huge majority" had voted for the ban.
He said he "very sincerely" hoped it would not lead to Islamophobic sentiment in the community.
He added: "If anybody looks at it objectively, they will see that the people who could cause these problems are the Lancashire Council of Mosques themselves. They are the ones who are making such a big issue of it."
More than 80% of halal meat in the UK is pre-stunned and is acceptable to many Muslims, according to the British Veterinary Association.