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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 1 March 2021

French city in uproar over meat-free school lunches

Mayor of Lyon chewed out by government for 'putting ideology on our children's plates'

French teacher Melanie Giret, speaks to pupils in her classroom. AFP
French teacher Melanie Giret, speaks to pupils in her classroom. AFP

The French government on Sunday accused the Greens' Mayor of Lyon of insulting butchers and harming the health of children by keeping meat off the menu for school lunches in the city.

Mayor Gregory Doucet defended the decision, saying a single menu without meat ensured smooth service at lunchtimes with social distancing enforced by the Covid-19 crisis.

But the government criticised the mayor, who was one of several Green politicians to win control of major cities in last year's local elections, which were regarded as a drubbing for the party of President Emmanuel Macron.

Lyon is considered to be the culinary capital of the country and is famed for its hearty meat-based cuisine.

"Let's stop putting ideology on our children's plates," Agriculture Minister Julien Denormandie wrote on Twitter.

"Let's just give them what they need to grow well … meat is part of it."

Mr Denormandie said he asked the region's prefect, the state-appointed top local official, to overrule the move.

Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said it was an "unacceptable insult" for French farmers and butchers.

"We can see that the moralising and elitist policy of the Greens excludes the popular classes," Mr Darmanin said.

"Many children often only get to eat meat at the school canteen."

Mr Doucet hit back on Twitter, saying the decision was made "solely" because of the health crisis and that his right-wing predecessor, Gerard Collomb, had taken "exactly the same measure" in the first wave of the pandemic.

He said the menu, which includes fish and egg products, was "balanced for all our schoolchildren".

Mr Doucet is not the first of the new breed of Green mayors to court controversy.

Last year the Mayor of Bordeaux, Pierre Hurmic, decided to scrap the city's traditional Christmas tree as part of his pro-environment agenda, saying he was "not going to put dead trees in our squares".

And Mr Doucet raised eyebrows by saying the most French of sporting events, the Tour de France, was "macho and polluting", and not welcome back in the city as long as it was not "environmentally responsible".

Updated: February 22, 2021 02:07 AM

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