CHILDREN across the county are being fed controversial meat products in school dinners unknown to themselves and their parents.

A Freedom of Information request to Worcestershire County Council revealed 38 primary, 18 middle and 20 high schools routinely serve halal meat - the type preferred by Muslims and Jews.

Halal refers to the slaughter method - it involves cutting the animal's neck, arteries and oesophagus and draining all its blood without the animal being stunned.

Some believe this causes the animal considerable suffering, but Muslims believe it is a more hygienic and kinder method of slaughter.

Malik Fayaz, chairman of the Muslim Welfare Association in Worcester, said halal killing was the most humane way of slaughtering animals.

But organiser of the city BNP, Martin Roberts, who submitted the FoI, said he was appalled to hear pupils are being served halal meat without being informed.

"Choosing to eat stunned meat is often a conscious choice, just like a Muslim's choice to eat halal meat, and these choices must be respected," he said.

"Just as Muslims have the right to object to stunned meat and feel very strongly about the method of slaughter, others have the right to object to halal meat.

"I think the way in which animals are killed for halal meat is barbaric. As usual, our views aren't being considered by the powers-that-be."

Worcester MP Mike Foster said the BNP was trying to drive a wedge between the local community when what is required is the opposite - a greater understanding.

However, he said animals should be stunned before slaughter. "On animal welfare grounds I think that is the right thing to do," he said.

Jenny Oliver, whose 12-year-old daughter Megan has school meals at Comberton Middle School in Kidderminster - one of the schools on the list - said she had no opinion either way on the use of halal meat, but that parents should be made aware of the fact.

"If parents know about this and have a strong opinion on the subject, then they can then make an informed choice about what their child eats,"

she added. The RSPCA is opposed to the method of halal killing and is pressing for changes in legislation that would improve the welfare of the animals at the time of slaughter.

Spokeswoman Judith Haw said: "Until this occurs, the society proposes that the Jewish and Muslim communities in the UK should review their slaughter practices.

"All meat produced from animals that have not been stunned before slaughter should be clearly labelled in some way, so that it can be identified by consumers."

A 2003 report by the Farm Animal Welfare Council (FAWC) argued that the practice of halal killing caused animal's considerable suffering - but the Government decided not to ban it. Instead, they recommended a compromise, involving immediate stunning after a cut was made.

Malik Fayaz, chairman of the Muslim Welfare Association in Worcester, said halal killing was the most humane way of slaughtering animals.

"The whole principal of halal is that it does not cause the animal undue pain," he said.

"There is no reason why anyone who eats meat should object to halal. There is even a suggestion that as the blood is drained so much, the meat is much purer and more hygienic."

Fred Capewell, the managing director of Class Catering in Bromsgrove, which provides school dinners at around 50 schools in Worcestershire, said catering companies had no legal requirement to declare that halal meat is used.

"It is not a secret though - if parents want to find out that kind of information they can. The they have a right to make an informed decision whether or not they want their children to eat it. Indeed, in some schools it is a requirement that we only serve halal meat."

He added that no schools in Worcestershire had raised any concerns over its use.

A spokesman for Worcestershire Local Education Authority said it was up to the individual Governing bodies of each school to decide on food policy and on what catering companies to employ. He added: "It is worth pointing out thought, that the list only represents a third of the county's schools, and that not all pupils have school meals."

The Worcester News spoke to several schools on the list and all said the choice of meat used was down to the outside caterers.

However, none had received any concerns from parents, but said if they did, they would take the concerns to the catering companies.

SCHOOLS SERVING HALAL MEAT PRODUCTS A list of South Worcestershire Schools revealed to be serving halal meat products (correct as of the end of the summer term 2006) Primary schools: Bewdley: St Ann's CE First Claines CE Primary. Droitwich: Chawson First, St Peter's First. Evesham: St Andrews CE, St Richard's CE First, Swan Lane First. Kidderminster: Foley Park First, St John's CE First, St Mary's CE First, St Oswald's First, The Marlpool First, The Offmore First, The Sutton Park First. Pershore: The Holy Redeemer RC. Pinvin CE First. Rushwick CE Primary. Worcester: Dines Green Primary, Our Lady Queen of Peace RC, Pitmaston Primary, Perry Wood Primary, St Barnabas CE Primary, St George's CE Primary, St Joseph's RC Primary, Stanley Road Primary, Warndon Junior. Middle Schools Bewdley: St Ann's CE Middle. Drakes Broughton: St Barnabas. Droitwich: Witton Middle. Evesham: Blackminster Middle, Simon De Montfort Middle. Kidderminster: Birchen Coppice Middle, St John's CE Middle, Sion Hill Middle. Pinvin: St Nicholas CE Middle Stourport-on-Severn: Lickhill Middle. High Schools: Droitwich High. Evesham High. Hanley Castle High. Kidderminster: King Charles 1 High, Baxter College. Malvern: The Chase High. Martley: The Chantry High. Worcester: Bishop Perowne College, Blessed Edward RC High, Christopher Whitehead High, The Elgar High.