THE prospect of thousands of Muslim children in East Lancashire boycotting meat in school meals is back on the agenda after a new row over halal.

The Lancashire County Council Cabinet on Thursday decided to re-open the question of whether it should use meat from animals which had not been stunned before slaughter.

It revives a row from 2012 when the authority banned all animal flesh from its 600 schools where pre-stunning has not been used.

Then the Lancashire Council of Mosques told Muslim families to boycott all such ‘halal’ meat as it did not meet their interpretation of Islamic law.

Thousands of Muslim children at 45 county council schools in Burnley, Pendle, Hyndburn and Rossendale, as well as five in Blackburn with Darwen borough supplied through the authority’s central catering unit, refused to eat meals containing the meat.

Prompted by county council Tory leader Geoff Driver, the county's cabinet decided, while discussing catering contracts in private session, that the issue of the stunning or otherwise of animals before slaughter for halal purposes should be debated at the next full council meeting on October 26 ‘with a decision going to a free vote, to enable members to vote according to their conscience’.

LCM chairman and Burnley resident Abdul Hamid Qureshi said: “We thought this issue has been resolved in 2012 and it is unfortunate it has been raised again.

“This is personal crusade by Cllr Driver.

“For him it is a matter of feelings but for Muslims this is matter of faith.

“The LCM position is and always has been that stunning before slaughter means the meat is not halal and there is argument about whether pre-stunning causes more or less distress to animals that slaughter without it.”

Cllr Driver said: “In my view it is abhorrent to kill an animal without stunning it because of the distress it causes.We will bring it to a full council meeting where members can vote with their conscience.”

Pendle Central Tory Cllr Joe Cooney said: “I have grave reservations and will vote against the banning of halal meat that is not pre-stunned.”

Salim Mulla, a Blackburn with Darwen councillor and chairman of the LCM’s Halal sub-committee, said: “This is very unfortunate.

“My advice to Muslims is alway ‘if you have any doubt, leave it out’.”

In 2012 ‘Halal’ meat was removed from all Lancashire County Council schools after it suddenly axed its contract with Blackburn supplier KQF Foods.