TODAY’S debate on whether Lancashire County Council school meals should use ‘halal’ meat only from pre-stunned animals has been defended by the authority’s leader.

Tory Geoff Driver has come under fire for reviving the issue which caused a boycott by thousands of Muslim children in 2012.

He said this morning: “This is an animal welfare issue, nothing more nothing less.

“The reason it has been raised now is because the contract for meat supplies is coming up for renewal.

“We could have decided it at Cabinet but in view of the sensitivity of this issue and strongly held views on both sides, I thought it best if it was brought before full council so that every County Councillor could have his or her say.

Cllr Driver added: “In my view, with modern methods of reversible stunning, there is no need for animals to suffer during slaughter.

“This view is actually shared by the vast majority of Muslims in this country where 84 per cent of halal meat comes from animals that were stunned before they were slaughtered.”