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Pupils at French school told: ‘It’s pork or no meat’

Pupils at a school in France will no longer be given a substitute meat if they don't eat pork, as local authorities try to cut down on food waste and costs. Parents have complained about the measure.

Pupils at French school told: 'It's pork or no meat'
Photo: Waytru/flickr

From this month onwards the school in the village of Arveyres in the Gironde region of south-west France will no longer offer a meat alternative to those children who do not eat pork, which is forbidden under Jewish and Muslim dietary laws.

Around 30 of the 180 children used to be offered a substitute meat when pork was on the menu, France's TF1 television reports.

 Parents of some of those pupils affected have taken umbrage to the decision.

“We are not asking for halal or kosher meat,” one mother told France blue radio. “We just want a meal with substitute protein.”

Certain parents had even offered to cook meals for the children and bring them to school but their offer was dismissed by the town's mayor because it would be "logistically hard to implement and ethically shocking".

The mayor of Arveyres, Benoit Gheysens told AFP the move was being taken because of the cost of providing alternative meals, many of which went to waste.

"Often children who did not take the substitute dinner complained as well and left the pork. It distressed the staff to see how much food was wasted," Gheysens said.

The mayor, who believes the school in Arveyres is not the only one in France facing such a dilemma, has vowed that the children will get all the protein they need saying vegetables, salads and lentils will be offered when pork is on the menu.

The mayor said pork was served no more than once a week.

The issue of halal meat is often a controversial topic in France and has been used as a political football, especially when elections approach.

Marine Le Pen the leader of the anti-immigration National Front party launched a fierce row before last year’s presidential elections when she claimed all meat from abatoirs in the Paris region was prepared using Islamic halal traditions and non-Muslim consumers in the capital were being misled.

Former president Nicolas Sarkozy then waded into the row suggesting that meat should be labelled to tell consumers how the animal was slaughtered, which Jews and Muslims reject because they fear it will lead to them being stigmatized.

Former Interior Minister under Sarkozy, Claude Gueant, said at the time that halal meat was one reason why the government opposed François Hollande's plan to give foreign residents the vote in French local elections.

"For example, we don't want foreign local councillors making halal meat obligatory in school canteens," he said.

The French Council of the Muslim Faith (CFCM) hit back, slamming what it said was the use of Muslims as "scapegoats" in the election campaign.

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Erdogan calls French separatism bill ‘guillotine’ of democracy

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday denounced a planned French law designed to counter "Islamist separatism" as a "guillotine" of democracy.

Erdogan calls French separatism bill 'guillotine' of democracy
Erdogan has already denounced the proposed measures as "anti-Muslim". Photo: Adem ALTAN/AFP

The draft legislation has been criticised both inside France and abroad for stigmatising Muslims and giving the state new powers to limit speech and religious groups.

“The adoption of this law, which is openly in contradiction of human rights, freedom of religion and European values, will be a guillotine blow inflicted on French democracy,” said Erdogan in a speech in Ankara.

The current version of the planned law would only serve the cause of extremism, putting NGOs under pressure and “forcing young people to choose between their beliefs and their education”, he added.

READ ALSO: What’s in France’s new law to crack down on Islamist extremism?

“We call on the French authorities, and first of all President (Emmanuel) Macron, to act sensibly,” he continued. “We expect a rapid withdrawal of this bill.”

Erdogan also said he was ready to work with France on security issues and integration, but relations between the two leaders have been strained for some time.

France’s government is in the process of passing new legislation to crack down on what it has termed “Islamist separatism”, which would give the state more power to vet and disband religious groups judged to be threats to the nation.

Erdogan has already denounced the proposed measures as “anti-Muslim”.

READ ALSO: Has Macron succeeded in creating an ‘Islam for France’?

Last October, Erdogan questioned Macron’s “mental health”, accusing him of waging a “campaign of hatred” against Islam, after the French president defended the right of cartoonists to caricature the prophet Mohammed.

The two countries are also at odds on a number of other issues, including Libya, Syria and the eastern Mediterranean.

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