COUNTY Council leader Geoff Driver is seeking a meeting with the Lancashire Islamic leaders in a bid to end the deadlock over the definition of halal meat.
Currently 9,000 Muslim pupils in Blackburn, Nelson, Burnley, Rawtenstall, Hyndburn and Preston are set to boycott all school meals when they return to class in September.
The threat followed Lancashire County Council’s cabinet earlier this month deciding to supply only halal meat from pre-stunned sheep and cattle to 27 schools, meaning those wishing to use un-stunned meat would have to find an alternative supplier.
The senior councillors exempted poultry from the requirement.
The Lancashire Council of Mosques (LCM) has a strict interpretation of halal meat which says pre-stunning animals before religious slaughter does not meet Islamic dietary requirements.
Abdul Hamid Qureshi, the organisation’s chairman, has said Muslim children should not eat any meals at the schools as a protest, a repeat of a bopcott in 2012.
He said the LCM would consider any request for meeting but was looking at taking legal action.
In an exclusive interview with the Lancashire Telegraph, Cllr Driver said he hoped to meet with the organisation to try and end the deadlock.
But he said it was ‘out on a limb’ on the issue, pointing out that the authority had exempted poultry meat from the new requirements in deference to its views.
Cllr Driver said: “We’re aware of the opinion of the Lancashire Council of Mosques.
“We’re going to hopefully meet them and try to persuade them not to start a ban on schools meals because that would cause hardship to some quite vulnerable families.
“Many of those children will be entitled to a free school meal and we want to make sure that those children get that free school meal.
“So we’ll be working hard with the LCM to try and overcome the problem.
“The issue with poultry is that the methods of stunning can’t guarantee that the method of stunning doesn’t kill the animal. I recognise that would make it unfit for halal.
“We’ve conceded that point and the ban won’t apply to chicken.
“To be honest, the LCM seem to be a bit out on a limb.
“Most Muslims in the world accept that provided the stunning doesn’t kill the animal, it can still be bled and slaughtered in accordance with the practice that makes it Halal.
“I must emphasise this is an animal welfare issue nothing else despite what some people are trying to make out.”
Mr Qureshi said: “We have not received a request for a meeting but we would consider one.
“We are looking at all our options on this issue including seeking a Judicial Review in the High Court.”