By Sylvie Corbet, Associated Press | August 21, 2015
France has been grappling with how to reconcile religious beliefs with secular values when it comes to pork in school lunches. One lawmaker’s solution: vegetarian meals.
After banning Muslim headscarves in classrooms in 2004, France is now tackling what to put on the plates of observant Muslim and Jewish schoolchildren, who by tradition don’t eat pork. The proposal by lawmaker Yves Jego to serve vegetarian meals as the mandatory option for pork has aroused unusual interest in a country where meat is regarded as part of the gastronomic tradition.
The center-right politician is winning a wave of support with his plan to introduce a bill next month that would impose vegetarian meals in addition to classic menus — helping young Muslims and Jews as well as vegetarians.
“Can we force a Catholic child to eat meat on Good Friday because nothing else is proposed, or a Jew or a Muslim to eat pork?” Jego asked in an online petition.
Jego launched the petition last week in reaction to an order by the conservative mayor of Chalon-sur-Saone, east of France, to remove pork substitutes from school menus. A court decision this month gave the green light to Mayor Gilles Platret’s order — despite concerns that it could sow discord. France is home to both western Europe’s largest Muslim population, estimated at 5 million, and largest Jewish population.
Schools often offer pork substitutes, but there is no national rule. In 2008, Lyon became the first major city to impose an alternative meatless menu in schools. In recent months, several mayors of medium-sized towns have announced their intention to do the same.
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