The conservative mayor of Chevigny-Saint-Sauveur has announced he will ban alternative school menus that do not include pork to promote secular values in schools.
Mayor Michel Rotger, a member of the conservative Republican party, said the move would promote secularism but would also save the local government money saying ‘alternative menus’ led to too much waste, L’Express reports.
“We are putting an operation in place so the children eat everything and their diets are balanced. There is too much waste so we will teach them to eat meat, be it poultry or pork,” Rotger said.
Parents of children who attend schools in the town, which boasts a population of around 10,000, were informed of the mayor’s proposal in a letter. The letter said the pork menu would promote the “ideas of secularism” and that only those with medical allergies would be able to opt out.
Some have spoken out against the mayor’s plans including Paul Garrigue, president of a group of associations which includes Amnesty International and the League of Human Rights. Garrigue said: “Today, we are talking about secularism in a generally anti-Muslim way.”
“We see secularism as a tool of tolerance and living together and not exclusion,” he said adding that pupils who refuse to eat pork should feel “at ease”.
Mayor Rotger defended his proposal noting he is following the recommendations of the Association of Mayors of France (AMF) who dismissed the idea of “denominational menus” in French schools in November of 2015.
The debate over pork on school menus or in government canteens has been raging in France and elsewhere in Europe for years. As far back as 2014, the French mayor of Sargé-lès-Le-Mans said that school menus would feature “pork or nothing”.
Calls for pork to be mandatory have also been made in Germany where senior officials in Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government have said it should be in schools and government canteens.
Daniel Günther, the parliamentary leader of Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union, said: “The protection of minorities – including for religious reasons – must not mean that the majority is overruled in their free decision by a false sense of consideration.”
In the UK, the case has been almost the opposite with a school in Islington banning pork from the menu since 2011 due to the large Muslim student population. The ban came under criticism from many in 2015 who argued that students should at least have a choice.