An order by the Green mayor of Lyon, seen by many as the nation’s food capital, to partially take the meat off the menu list in school canteens during the COVID-19 pandemic has started a major political dispute in France.
Government officials have accused Gregory Doucet, the mayor, of “elitist” and “ideological” behaviour after the measure, which is also being evaluated by many other cities, including Italy and Paris, came into force in Lyon’s schools on Tuesday.
The city council announced the decision to give the same meatless four-course breakfast and lunch was practical, saying physical distancing rules compelled more sittings in school canteens. It could not serve 30,000 students in two hours if there were a choice of vegetarian and meat menus.
Food constitutes about a quarter of France’s carbon footprint. The government is developing plans to motivate the French to consume less meat and eat more local produce but of higher quality. The French senate suggested last year a more vegetable-based diet, but primarily to counter the harmful impact of takeaways and fast food. There have also been recommendations to reward low-emission meat producers.
But opposition to any plans to reduce meat consumption will be severe from France’s powerful farming lobby. The Lyon proposal was met with protest in cows, goats, and tractors paraded in front of the city hall.
The Lyon city council has guaranteed canteens will offer a meat option again as soon as children have more time to eat and restrictions are relaxed. Also pointing out that the quick menus are not vegan but contain eggs and fish and that the former mayor, Gerard Collomb, took the same step during the first coronavirus wave.