End the 'ban' on vegetarian food in French schools.
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As you (the petitioned, ministers in this case) must surely know, vegetarianism and veganism have been effectively banned in French schools since October 2011 (1). By the bill, at least 8 meals in 20 must include meat or fish, leaving only 12/20 days for vegetarians to be vegetarians and eat the main meal.This main meal must be based on meat, fish, eggs, cheese or offal, so even when vegetarians aren't excluded then vegans certainly are (there must also be dairy incorporated every day.) Although the loophole of providing different meal options in a certain way could be explored, it's certainly not legitimised by the aims of the bill.
Against basic human rights
As a vegan since the age of 11 (I'm 13 now) this appalls me! The shock of realising that such a democratic, Western country, built on the revolutionary principles of basic human rights, could be so dangerously controlling left me truly incredulous. I am not exaggerating; these dietary choices are often conscientiously made, and the European charter of fundamental rights ( which France is bound to respect) states that:"Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. This right includes freedom to change religion or belief and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or in private, to manifest religion or belief, in worship, teaching, practice and observance.".(2)
In hospitals and prisons
In 2010, an article - L230-5 of the Code rural et de la pêche maritime - was voted in. It stated that prisons, kindergartens, hospitals, universities, retirement homes and schools were to be respect rules concerning the food they served, to be later determined by decree. As can be guessed, when these rules were determined, and applied to schools only, they were expected to follow in the other mentioned institutions also. This could easily create even less room for personal, conscientious choice than in these schools, as those incarcerated in prison or injured in hospital can of course not supply themselves with alternatives easily. This would force a meat-eating diet on a large portion of the country's population and those in the 2% of vegetarians there. (3)
No way out
In case this seemed an over reaction, again, to a simply solved problem let me say that :
-there is only one choice of meal for primary school and below
-there are only two choices for high schoolers
-Packed lunches are discouraged or banned (I couldn't find much information further than 'you can't bring a packed lunch', so I'm open to corrections)
-vending machines are banned
-snacking is heavily discouraged
The idea of leaving items uneaten is, to me, an ignorantly caustic statement inclined to elicit either tears or laughter. I am vegan because I believe that it is wrong to fund and condone the terrible treatment that animals undergo in the typical farm ; buying a chicken curry at school (and eating around the chicken) would mean that, quite apart from me eating chicken juices, some of my money would have gone to people profiting from keeping animals in deplorable conditions.
So it is here ; if a child (of my age as well as 'preschoolers' and primary school students) won't eat beef for personal, moral reasons, indirectly paying money for a beef main doesn't make sense. Only eating the vegetables is little different to eating everything on the plate.
And what, at school, could vegetarians eat otherwise? Well, plain bread and water must be served, and at least 10/20 of meals served with a raw vegetable accompaniment (soaked in gravy?With chunks of fish?.) There's also raw fruit for dessert 8/20, and a starchy/cereal side for another 10/20 days. For vegetarians there's cheese 12/20, but it seems that vegans would end up having potatoes,bread,water,fruit and some salad on the best of days. Considering that 40% of a child's calorific intake should be from lunch (at least according to the French Ministry of Education)(4) this is dangerously unacceptable.
Damaging attitude towards vegetarianism
An example of the French government's attitude towards vegetarianism, as faintly ridiculous as it is outrageous, is this, from the official French food and health website, mangarbougour.fr (5) : "By all means, do not follow this diet!". It states, of a vegan diet: "It does not cover all the dietary needs, you would have serious deficiencies not only in protein but also iron and calcium !".
This is despite the policy of the UK (6), Australian(7), and US(8) governments (to name but a few), and many other governments and organisations, which accept that well planned vegan/vegetarian diets can be as healthy or more healthy than meat eating diets. The American Dietetic Association, for example, states that:
"It is the position of the American Dietetic Association that appropriately planned vegetarian diets, including total vegetarian or vegan diets, are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases. Well-planned vegetarian diets are appropriate for individuals during all stages of the life cycle, including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, and adolescence, and for athletes."(9)
This move, in conclusion, marginalises and isolates the minority (2% of the French population identify as vegetarian)(10) of young vegetarians/vegans . They must eat apart from their classmates, at home or with packed lunch (if they're allowed one), and cannot enjoy a full meal as non-vegetarian classmates can. It also puts them in danger of under eating and malnutrition, again as the French government advises that children get 40% of their calories from lunch. Especially in a country known to place great weight on the quality (in terms of health, taste and social interaction) by what its children eat, this is simply unacceptable. As a result, these laws ought to be changed to provide suitable vegetarian and vegan alternatives. In a country that has already done so much to ensure that its new generation eats well, I have no doubt that it could be done.
(4)Look under the heading "Why are school lunches so important for the French?"
(10) I will try to find a link to the actual study too.
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