Councillors will decide today whether Lancashire County Council should continue to supply its schools with meat which has not been stunned prior to slaughter.
It is now twelve months since the authority first voted to stop providing unstunned halal meat to the 27 schools in the county which currently receive it. But the move was delayed after the Lancashire Council of Mosques launched a legal challenge to the way in which a public consultation was carried out.
READ MORE >>> County hall to stop supplying unstunned halal meat to schools
Following a fresh consultation - in which two thirds of respondents said they were opposed to the decision - cabinet once again approved the change back in July. The matter is now coming back before full council after the authority's leader, Geoff Driver, said he had given "further consideration to the strength of feeling on both sides".
Last year's council debate on the issue took an ill-tempered turn, when County Cllr Driver was accused of causing a "religious bunfight" and he said some opposition members should be "ashamed" for playing politics with an issue which is "animal welfare matter and nothing more".
Abdul Qureshi, chief executive of the Lancashire Council of Mosques, described the process as a "shambles" earlier this year.
"Why didn't [the council] set up a commission to enquire about the issue properly?" Mr Qureshi asked. "I would like to know whether anybody [involved in the decision] has been to a slaughterhouse and looked at the process for themselves.
"This is having a deep impact on the cohesion of society and causing deep resentment in our hearts," he added.
There is no single definition of what constitutes 'halal', but some sections of the Muslim community are opposed to animals being stunned prior to slaughter, because of the convention that they must not be 'dead before they are bled'.
Schools could still chose to purchase unstunned meat from other providers if the council votes to stop supplying it. The decision is due later this afternoon.