French government criticises Lyon mayor’s school meat ban

The French government has hit back at Gregory Doucet, Lyon’s Green mayor, for introducing a meat ban in school lunches.

Lyon mayor Gregory Doucet is being criticised by the French government for imposing a ban on serving meat in the city’s school lunches.

A member of the Green party, Doucet said having a single menu without meat streamlines the lunch service during the enforced social distancing. But the government is accusing the Lyon mayor of insulting French butchers and risking children’s health.

“Let’s stop putting ideology on our children’s plates. Let’s just give them what they need to grow well,” tweeted Julien Denormandie, France’s agriculture minister. “Meat is part of it.” He added that he had asked the region’s prefect, who is the state-appointed top local official, to overrule the move.

Interior minister Gerald Darmanin called it an “unacceptable insult” to French farmers and butchers: “We can see that the moralising and elitist policy of the Greens excludes the popular classes. Many children often only get to eat meat at the school canteen.”

Doucet responded by saying the measure was solely taken due to the health crisis imposed by the coronavirus, adding that his predecessor, the right-wing mayor Gerald Collomb, had introduced the same measures in the pandemic’s first wave in France. The menu still includes fish and eggs, and the mayor said they were balanced for all schoolchildren.

Plant-based and meat-free attitudes have been changing in France, whose cuisine is traditionally meat- and dairy-heavy. The news of Lyon’s meat ban in school lunches comes months after France’s central government announced a €100 million strategy to develop plant proteins for agro-food sovereignty and sustainability. Last month, Ares-based ONA, owned by chef Claire Vallée, became the first fully vegan French restaurant to receive a Michelin star.

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