More than 3,500 people have signed a petition calling on a council to ban non-stun Halal meat being served in local schools.
Schools in West Yorkshire are served meat from animals that have been slaughtered while fully conscious, suffering “unnecessary pain and distress”, the petition says.
It is a legal requirement that animals must be humanely stunned before slaughter, but non-stun slaughter is still permitted for some religious communities.
However, the RSPCA says “for slaughter to be humane, it's essential that animals are effectively stunned.”
The British Veterinary Association, representing 17,000 British vets, believes that “all animals should be stunned before slaughter to render them insensible to pain” and highlights that scientific evidence supports the use of pre-stunning to improve animal welfare.
Both organisations have previously highlighted their concerns around figures which show an increase in non-stun slaughter.
The petition states: “We the undersigned call on Kirklees Council to uphold animal welfare standards and only supply meat from animals that were stunned before slaughter.
“Kirklees Council has been serving non-stunned halal meat in 42 schools without the knowledge or consent of the majority of pupils and parents.
“In some schools all of the meat served is non-stunned and there is no alternative option for pupils. The council has refused to say which schools are affected,” the petition says.
“There is no need for the council to supply non-stunned halal meat when the majority of halal meat is pre-stunned. Most Muslims are content with stunning.”
Other councils have stated there is no need to serve non-stunned meat in their schools and have introduced more ethical catering policies.
Lancashire County Council recently decided to stop serving most non-stunned meat by an overwhelming majority.
The petition adds: “Everyone has the right to observe and practice their religion in a free society, but it is clearly unethical for Kirklees Council to serve non-stunned meat to public schoolchildren. Our council has a duty to treat animals in a more humane way.”
It comes as research from the National Secular Society shows that at least 18 councils in the UK are supplying non-stunned meat to schools – most of which are not Islamic faith schools.