French turning away from meat towards vegetarianism

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Oliver Gee - [email protected]
French turning away from meat towards vegetarianism
Photo: AFP

The land of boeuf bourguignon appears to be deep in soul-searching about whether or not to eat meat as more and more French people turn towards a vegetarian diet.


It's perhaps not surprising that vegetarianism is popular in France right now.
Just this week, another horrific video from inside a French abattoir made headlines across the nation, showing animal cruelty at the highest degree. 
It was the third video of its kind in recent months, and prompted the agriculture minister to order inspections in all of France's slaughterhouses. 
The videos are enough to put you off your meaty dinner - and that's exactly what's been happening with the French.
Officially, only around 3 percent of the French classify themselves as vegetarians - a figure that hasn't changed for several years. But, according to Elodie Vielle-Blanchard, the head of the Vegetarian Association of France, there is a serious shift underway.
"We think there is a huge percentage of the population that is flexitarian, meaning they've really reduced their intake of animal meat and aspire to take on a vegetarian lifestyle," she told BFMTV
"And ten percent of French people can see themselves becoming a vegetarian," she added. 
A flexitarian is someone who consciously eats less animal products, whether for financial, health, or environmental reasons. 
Eight top vegetarian restaurants in France
(Why not try a vegetarian baked stuffed portabello today? Photo: Jean-François Chénier/Flickr)
She added that the days of associating vegetarians and vegans with hippies were long over, and that the diet was no longer a "niche". 
"The representation of vegetarianism has really evolved," she said.
"It's now seen as a pleasant lifestyle that's healthy and trendy. We are seeing a lot more people interested in learning how to cook vegetarian food, even if they're not wanting to become vegetarians."
"The fact alone that so many people are interested is a positive sign, and shows what may be a major development in the vegetarian population in the coming decades."
Being a vegetarian in France
While many vegetarians living in France will tell you it's a tough lifestyle choice, it's definitely getting easier. 
There's even been a considerable surge in the number of 100 percent vegetarian or vegan restaurants, and France can boast 1,691 of them today, compared to 1,228 just six months ago.
And there are 290 today in Paris alone, compared to 218 in October, according to the healthy eating guide Happy Cow.
Even though it remains much easier to stumble upon a typical French restaurant packed to the rafters with charcuterie and cheese, animal activists are urging the public to take the leap and climb aboard the vegetarian train. 
A spokesperson from animal rights group L214, which has been behind the release of the recent abattoir footage, told The Local that now is the time to ditch the meat.
"We want people to aware, to think about their own responsibility, and of course, to think about stopping eating meat," she said, after footage of animal cruelty was released from one of France's "organic" slaughterhouses. 
"These animals are sentient beings after all, just like cats and dogs," she said.



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