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French mayor faces criticism for vegetarian school meals

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A mayor in the province of Lyon in France has courted controversy this month with his decision for schools in the area to go vegetarian for their daily meals. 

The mayor, Gregory Douchet, came under fire from the French national government and parents for the decision which they believe is detrimental to the overall health of the students. By keeping meat firmly off the menu, critics are saying the mayor is not only harming the heath of the children by creating a nutrient deficient diet, but also damaging the economy. Arguments against the mayor claim that the decision is a harsh blow to the butchers in the area and unfair in its portrayal of their trade. 

The mayor defended the decision, countering that the meals were “balanced for all our schoolchildren”. He chose to add that the decision also came as a result of the COVID-19 global epidemic crisis. By removing meat from the menu he hopes that schools will be able to improve the smoothness of their service at meal times and help keep to the social distancing measures enforced as a result of the pandemic. 

Mayor Douchet is a member of the Green party in France, and just one in a number of the Green party’s politicians who won a seat in local elections last year. The wins were considered a harsh blow to current President Emmanuel Macron’s centrist and liberal party.

Agriculture Minister Julien Denormandie took to Twitter to ask for a stop in the ongoing politics surrounding school meals: “Let’s stop putting ideology on our children’s plates.” The debate is playing out across France in particular for it coming from Lyon, a place considered one of the country’s food destinations. Elsewhere, the decision has been labelled an “unacceptable insult” by Interior Minister for France Gerald Darmanin.