A local authority is offering its primary schools the chance to serve halal-only meat on its school menus Nine secondary schools in Harrow, north-west London, already provide pupils with meat prepared according to Islamic law in a scheme that has been running for two years.
Harrow Council said the decision to give halal-only meat, with vegetarian and fish alternatives, had been successful and the 52 primary schools in the area were due to discuss taking part in the same programme.
A council spokeswoman said the move had been advised by an independent dietician.
Councillor Brian Gate, portfolio holder for schools and colleges, said the “level of interest” from parents, and the costs involved meant that the council was not introducing the scheme into all primary schools.
Instead, it would be the choice of individual schools as to whether or not they chose to use catering firm Harrison Catering Services, which serves halal-only meat through a hub kitchen.
Councillor Gate said: “We consulted with primary schools about the provision of hot meals to their schools but the decision about whether to use an individual provider is for schools to make, as the funding is delegated to them.
”At present we are not proceeding to roll this programme out more widely but this is because of the cost constraints and the level of interest from parents.
”We will be reviewing the position with schools in the autumn.”
According to the Halal Food Authority (HFA), halal meat is prepared by the animal having its throat slashed. The blood is then left to drain from the carcass.
The method of preparation has been criticised by some as being unnecessarily cruel to animals, which are fully conscious when they are killed.
Masood Khawaja, president of the HFA, said he welcomed the move but stressed that pupils should be not be forced to eat halal meat.
He said: “It’s commendable for any local authority to introduce halal meals for Muslim students and pupils, but we also say that it should be properly labelled. Non-Muslims should have a choice as well.
”A parent might not want their child to eat anything that’s halal because they think it’s not right for animal welfare reasons, or some other reason. We live in a society that teaches equality. There should be a choice.”
The council spokeswoman said two primary schools had already decided to go with the Harrison Catering Services contract and give halal-only meat to their pupils.
In a statement, Harrison Catering Services said they could not comment on individual contracts.
A Muslim Council of Britain spokesman said: “Parents who wish their children to consume genuine halal should be given the freedom and choice to do so.
”Local authorities are under a duty to facilitate this - the route adopted to discharge this duty is at their discretion. Those who do not wish to consume halal should similarly be afforded the freedom and choice.”
By Lauren Turner