HARROW Council has defended its decision to consider halal-only meat caterers for some of the borough's schools.

It said media reports that it was insisting on schools only serving halal meat were untrue, but the catering situation in schools will be reviewed in the autumn.

A furore has kicked up since it was revealed the council has engaged with catering company Harrison's to offer primary school meals where only halal meat is available.

The council said today that the menus also include fish and vegetarian options, and said it was the school's choice whether it opted into the scheme.

In a statement, it said: “The use of halal meat is common practice across London in many schools, public organisations and indeed restaurants, because of the need to provide segregated meat preparation.

“However, there is a choice of menu every day and frequently there is a fish, as well as a vegetarian choice.

“The catering provider concerned has been providing schools meals in nine Harrow high schools for the past two years including halal meat.

“This contract was procured by the schools and has been very successful.”

Meat designated halal comes from animals killed by a slit to the throat and it is the only meat acceptable to some Muslims. However, the method is seen as cruel by others.

Harrow Council said it had received no complaints from pupils or parents during the last two years at the secondary schools where only halal meat is served.

Councillor Brian Gate, in charge of schools and colleges, said no decision had been made over primary school food provision and the council would work with schools in the autumn to “make the best decision for their pupils”.

He 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 are aware that some faith groups don't eat Halal meat and we will be reviewing the position with schools in the autumn."

Anyone with a question about halal meat meals at Harrow schools can email school.meals@harrow.gov.uk.