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Vegetarianism Banned in French Schools

Vegetarianism Banned in French Schools

Being a vegetarian in France isn’t easy — fewer than 2 percent of the French population calls itself vegetarian — and the passing of a new law on October 3 is likely to make it all but impossible for schoolchildren to do so. The new rules do not place an outright ban on vegetarian meals, but, by mandating certain minimum nutritional requirements, “make it clear that the state believes all sources of protein should come from animal, not vegetable, products,” according to Brigitte Gothière of the vegetarian association L214.

All school canteens feeding more than 80 children must serve meals with specific quantities of protein, iron, calcium and fresh fruit:

Schools now have to provide meals which include a protein element with accompaniment, such as rice or vegetables, a dairy product (for example cheese or yoghurt) and either a starter or a pudding. The protein can be cheese but a dairy product is also obligatory as a separate element.

… On a 20-meal cycle, a minimum of four meals must include “quality meat” and four “quality fish,” and on the other days, egg, cheese or “abats” (offal) should be the main dish. Isabelle Dudouet-Bercegeay, president of the Association Végétarienne de France, says: “It’s a case of ‘If you don’t want your child to eat meat, don’t use the canteen.’”

Matthieu Grégory, food adviser to the minister said that the new laws adhere with national Nutrition Santé (nutrition and health) plans and provide a “balanced diet.” He did not outrule “menus with a substitution” on a “case by case basis” provided that “towns adhere to the decree.” But under the new decree, schools that serve vegetarian meals would be in effect breaking the law, while vegan meals would simply be impossible. L214 issued a statement saying that

The government has brought the law into school catering, imposing a model based on a high consumption of animal products and banning vegetarianism.”

20 members of L214 staged a protest on October 26, challenging the new rules.

The system for school meals in France is a quite different sort of affair than it is in the US where pizza, potatoes in various guises. hamburgers and sandwiches are the norm. Lunch in French schools can often consist of rabbit, veal, cassoulet or raclette with sausages. Children in the equivalent of preschool and elementary school are served only one meal option so, on the days when meat is part of the main dish — on most days, that is — there is no vegetarian option. Older children have a “self-service system” and can choose not to eat meat but, since a meat dish is most likely  to be the only protein offered, they will inevitably end up with a nutritionally deficient meal.

A number of parents have voiced concerns about their children being in effect forced to eat meat. Children who are  Jewish or Muslim are also affected by the new laws; they have already not been eating main courses if pork is used.

The new regulations for meals in French schools amount to what you could call state-mandated meat eating. In French schools, it would seem that there’s no freedom — no liberté — when it comes to what to eat, and no equality (égalité) about what counts as protein.

 

Related Care2 Coverage

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Photo of cassoulet by telepathic paranoia

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446 comments

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3:04PM PDT on Oct 5, 2014

Please check earlier comments - children can eat healthily and vegetarian in French schools - but there's no vegetarian option per se. My son was eating meat/fish-less meals last year.

2:47PM PDT on Oct 5, 2014

This seems a breach of human rights and chauvinist.

1:00AM PDT on Aug 3, 2014

Hummm...As a French i feel the need to give my feeling about that.
First of all, its will be a surprise for nobody thats in France everything is like a bit upside down for quite a wile :)30 years or so :p
In this case, i am not sure thats is so "horrible" till in school restaurants there is always a main course with a meal AND vegetables, plus appetizers and desserts.
We are not a "veggie" orientated country, an far from it ! then i will be more concerned by a proper and objective program in to explain to this kids whats really been vegan...
These kids are quit often vegan by there parents choice instead of there own decision...let them make they choices and give our younger some trust...

1:00AM PDT on Aug 3, 2014

Hummm...As a French i feel the need to give my feeling about that.
First of all, its will be a surprise for nobody thats in France everything is like a bit upside down for quite a wile :)30 years or so :p
In this case, i am not sure thats is so "horrible" till in school restaurants there is always a main course with a meal AND vegetables, plus appetizers and desserts.
We are not a "veggie" orientated country, an far from it ! then i will be more concerned by a proper and objective program in to explain to this kids whats really been vegan...
These kids are quit often vegan by there parents choice instead of there own decision...let them make they choices and give our younger some trust...

1:00AM PDT on Aug 3, 2014

Hummm...As a French i feel the need to give my feeling about that.
First of all, its will be a surprise for nobody thats in France everything is like a bit upside down for quite a wile :)30 years or so :p
In this case, i am not sure thats is so "horrible" till in school restaurants there is always a main course with a meal AND vegetables, plus appetizers and desserts.
We are not a "veggie" orientated country, an far from it ! then i will be more concerned by a proper and objective program in to explain to this kids whats really been vegan...
These kids are quit often vegan by there parents choice instead of there own decision...let them make they choices and give our younger some trust...

5:30AM PDT on Aug 15, 2013

How very outdated. I've been a vegetarian for 45 years - it's easy now but I can remember how tricky it was when I first started back in the late 60s. Restaurants, supermarkets and 'corner shops' all cater very well for vegetarian needs here in the UK but even now, on French holidays, it's a bit of a struggle if I'm eating out.

12:19PM PDT on Aug 13, 2013

I do not think that schools should make this decision...

4:37PM PDT on Aug 11, 2013

How sad that the French school system is not more open minded. There is nothing wrong with a vegetarian diet when sound choices are made. In my opinion, it is healthier and more animal friendly.
It also is offensive that only one choice is available (on many days). Who has the right to dictate what is nutritionally balanced for our children. Well, all I can say is, if they are able, pack a lunch!

4:09AM PDT on Aug 10, 2013

Sound good; but vegetarian dishes can be equally nutritious if carefully watched, just like any form of diet

10:41AM PDT on Aug 9, 2013

John, even as a child I couldn't digest beans and I'm not the only one.
In a properly balanced diet, protein should not exceed 1/4 of the plate, so that leaves plenty of room for produce and grains....without overeating meat.

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