Tag Archives: France

Veg in France – progress amid resistance

ONA is the first vegan restaurant in France to earn a prestigious Michelin star/ Cécile Labonne

Lyonnaise cuisine is world renowned, with a particular emphasis on meat. When in 2019 France introduced an experiment (which ends in October 2021) to offer children a vegetarian option at all school cafeterias, there was an outcry of resistance which has recently focused Lyons. In February, Grégory Doucet, the mayor of Lyon, announced that the city’s school cafeterias would temporarily stop serving meat every day, initially to make it easier to comply with pandemic regulations, but also due to the mayor’s own environmental leanings.

The mayors edict sparked a local backlash. Farmers rolled out tractors to occupy city hall, and government ministers accused the mayor of harming children. Parents signed petitions and sued the city. The minister of the interior called the decision “an unacceptable insult to French farmers.”

Yet while meat is part of traditional French Cuisine, change is coming to France. For instance, a vegan restaurant, ONA, based in the south western town of Arès, near Bordeaux, recently made history in France by winning a coveted Michelin star. Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, one of the most famous cooking schools in France and in the world, now has a program called Cordon Vert to train chefs in vegetarian cuisine.

Brigitte Bardo in 1960s

It’s important to note that there has always been a vegetarian element in France. For instance Jean Jacques Rousseau, a political philosopher famous in French history and a vegetarian himself, advocated for a vegetarian diet for children. I think it would fair to say that if Rousseau were in Lyons today he would be siding with those enacting vegetarian meals for the school children in Lyons.

Today, the famous actress and animal rights activist, Brigitte Bardo carries a movement started long ago. Bardo has acted in 47 movies, performed in several musicals and recorded more than 60 songs. In 1986, she established the Brigitte Bardot Foundation for the Welfare and Protection of Animals and became a vegetarian. Even to this day, at the age of 86, she continues to advocate for animals.

France Bans Vegetarian Options in Schools

France has taken a bold step in the wrong direction and it’s one that, if not overturned, could hurt every vegetarian student in the country.

A decree and bylaw, published in the “Journal Officiel” on October 2nd, forces school canteens to respect a set of standards meant to guarantee the nutritional balance of the meals. Each meal necessarily has to contain a protein dish where proteins are exclusively animal-based (meat, fish, eggs or cheese), overriding the plentiful availability of vegetable proteins. A dairy product is supposedly necessary as the only way to cover calcium needs, ignoring untold vegetable and mineral alternatives. For meats (beef, veal, lamb, or offal…) and fish, a minimum frequency is specified as mandatory.

So, from now on, it is impossible for regular school cafeteria users to be vegetarian, or impossible for them to maintain their vegetarian diet every day, and it will be impossible to be vegan for even one meal. Vegetarian children, who may manage to leave the meat on the edge of their plate, would be forced to have unbalanced meals, as no alternative would be available.

This decree appears to be a short-sighted political move designed to protect the French animal farmers, who have been scared by the success of speeches by famous people such as Paul McCartney, advocating eating no meat one day a week. Let’s hope there’s sufficient uproar by health and human rights advocates in France, for the politicians to see the folly of such a move.