THOUSANDS of Muslim pupils in Blackburn, Nelson, Burnley, Rawtenstall, Hyndburn and Preston will be told to boycott all school meals when they return to class in September.

The move follows the decision by Lancashire County Council’s ruling cabinet to stop supplying only halal meat from pre-stunned sheep and cattle to 27 schools.

The authority currently provides halal meat from un-stunned animals to these schools attended by 12,000 pupils, three-quarters of them Muslims.

The senior councillors exempted poultry from the requirement for animals to be stunned before slaughter.

County leader Cllr Geoff Driver, who championed the move, said: “This decision has been taken solely on the grounds of animal welfare.”

Abdul Hamid Qureshi, chairman of the Lancashire Council of Mosques (LCM), branded it ‘absolutely unfair’ and said Muslim children should not eat any meals at the schools as a protest, a repeat of one in 2012.

The LCM has a strict interpretation of halal meat which says pre-stunning animals before religious slaughter does not meet Islamic dietary requirements.

When the contract for halal meat came due for renewal last year, the full county council agreed not to provide meat, other than poultry, to county council establishments unless animals were pre-stunned.

Implementation was delayed for further consultation to but was confirmed by the cabinet to take effect from the new term in September, meaning schools wishing to use un-stunned meat would have to find an alternative supplier.

Mr Qureshi said: “This decision is absolutely unfair, undemocratic and discriminatory against Lancashire Muslims.

“We shall tell children not eat any meals supplied by the county council as a protest, as it has made it political. Cllr Driver has imposed this decision in a dictatorial fashion. We are looking at a legal challenge,” Mr Qureshi added.

Cllr Driver said: “It is clear that there is much debate about what constitutes halal. We accept that a small number of schools may choose to use different suppliers for halal meat.”

County Labour leader Cllr Azhar Ali branded the decision ‘premeditated and predetermined.”

Cllr Driver said: “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 the LCM, parents and governors.”