French ministers and lawmakers have a bone to pick with meatless school meals.
Several ministers are up in arms at a February 15 decision by the Green mayor of Lyon, Grégory Doucet, to temporarily offer a single meatless lunch menu to primary school pupils, as opposed to multiple meal choices.
Lyon Deputy Mayor Stéphanie Léger told AFP that the measure would help speed up meal distribution as pupils need to socially distance themselves during lunch break. Fish and eggs, however, remain on the plate. Former Lyon Mayor Gérard Collomb, a member of President Emmanuel Macron’s La République en Marche (LREM) party, introduced a similar measure for the same reasons last spring.
Agriculture Minister Julien Denormandie on Sunday called on the Rhône Prefect, who represents the state in Lyon, to act. “Let’s stop putting ideology on our children’s plate,” he said on Twitter. The previous day, Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin had also chimed in, blaming a “scandalous ideology” and a “moralist, elitist” policy, which he said prevented working-class children from eating meat.
The beef heated up on Monday when Ecological Transition Minister Barbara Pompili, a former member of Doucet’s Green party, tweeted out a vegetarian school lunch menu with an entrée of squash soup, followed by spaghetti with lentils and vegetables. Pompili is preparing to defend the Climate and Resilience bill in parliament, which includes a proposal for schools to experiment with meatless school meals.
“I really regret that on this topic, we are falling into a prehistorical debate,” Pompili said on Monday as she was visiting the canteen serving vegetarian spaghetti. “We know that in regards to dietary recommendations, children under 10 eat more meat than expected,” she added.
Jean-Baptiste Moreau, an MP and spokesman for LREM who is also a cattle farmer, replied bluntly to his fellow party member: “Pragmatism, just like the love of science and loyalty, are concepts that are foreign to you,” he told Pompili on Twitter.
According to Libération, this attack prompted Hugues Renson, another LREM MP and a vice president of the National Assembly, to call for Moreau’s resignation as a spokesman on Tuesday.
“French meat deserves better than unproductive controversies from an LREM spokesman who was less outspoken toward Gérard Collomb when he took the same measure,” Renson tweeted on Monday night.
Macron and Prime Minister Jean Castex have yet to comment on the controversy, but on Monday night Castex’s chief of staff Nicolas Revel asked his counterparts in other ministries to lower the temperature, according to an internal note, part of which was shared with POLITICO by someone familiar with the matter. “The less we feed self-inflicted controversies,” the note reads, “the better we’ll fare.”
Pauline de Saint Remy contributed reporting.
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