Comment: French government’s banning of vegetarianism in schools is stubborn and narrow-minded

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French government bans vegetarianism in school canteens

I can’t believe the French government is actually banning vegetarianism in schools. This is completely outrageous.

Link to the Guardian article

Lack of understanding

The arguments of the Direction Générale de l’Alimentation typify the widespread lack of understanding of so many who think vegetarians can not maintain a healthy diet. If I hear one more person say: “you’re vegetarian? but you look too healthy,” I think I may hit the offending party around the head with a carrot!

It is a complete myth that vegetarians can not get enough protein to follow a balanced diet. In fact, it has been proved a vegetarian diet can meet the daily protein requirements of any individual. By setting rules which insist that school meals must include meat or fish every day, the French government is refusing to acknowledge that other sources of protein are available.

Contrast

France’s new policy provides an interesting contrast to Belgium’s innovative introduction of vegetarian days in 2009. Civil servants were required to go without meat for one day per week to raise awareness about environmental concerns, after the UN announced that the rearing of livestock for meat is responsible for nearly one-fifth of global greenhouse gas emissions.

Stubborn

While I fully support France’s enthusiasm for fresh, local produce and its disdain for fast food, I resent its stubborn desire to cling to traditional meat dishes and its absolute refusal to consider trying anything new.

I lived in France for a year and really struggled as a vegetarian. When I told people I did not eat meat, their reactions ranged from shock and disbelief, to complete horror and sometimes genuine offence. I lost count of the number of times I ordered a vegetarian quiche, only to find lardons (little pieces of bacon) inside. On another occasion, I ordered a “vegetarian” soup, and then discovered I was expected to “eat around” the lumps of chicken!

Culture

I understand that meat is an important part of French cuisine and culture, but I think the French government should be more tolerant and respect people’s freedom to make their own decisions about their diet.

Photo: Joff Hopkins via Flickr