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In France, eating animals becomes legal obligation

12 October 2011

In France, eating animals becomes legal obligation

Vegetarians* and vegans struggle for their freedom of conviction.

A decree has just been published making compulsory rules for the composition of meals in all public and private school catering. These rules force six millions of children of school age to eat meat, fish, dairy products and eggs.

Similar decrees are in preparation for almost all French catering, from nursery schools up to old people's home, including colleges, hospitals and prisons.

And so French law, on behalf of a public health measure, forbids the concrete expression of a conviction.

Vegetarian citizens stand up for their food choice rights.

A good piece of news? Not for vegetarians!

A decree and bylaw published in the "Journal Officiel" on October 2nd [1] force school canteens to respect a set of standards meant to guarantee the nutritional balance of the meals. Each meal necessarily has to contain a protein dish where proteins are exclusively animal-based (meat, fish, eggs or cheese), overriding plentiful availability of vegetable proteins. A dairy product is meant to represent the only way to cover calcium needs, ignoring untold vegetable and mineral alternatives. For meats (beef, veal, lamb, or offal...) and fish, a minimum frequency is specified as mandatory.

So it is from now on impossible for school cafeterias regular users to be vegetarian, or impossible for them to maintain their vegetarian diet every day. And it will be impossible to be vegan for even one meal.

Vegetarian children who would eventually manage to leave the meat on the edge of their plate would be forced to have unbalanced meals, as no alternative would be available.

Attack on freedom of conviction

A lot of people in the world hold a deep conviction that the consumption of animals and animal exploitation is an abuse. Vegetarianism and veganism are the main concrete expression of this conviction.

The governmental decree is an infringement of fundamental rights by restricting the free practice of personal convictions such as it is proclaimed by United Nations:

"Everyone shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. This right shall include freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of his choice, and freedom, either individually or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief, observance, practice, and teaching."

The treatment of animals is the object of a growing public opinion debate in France, as can be seen by several recent works released questioning, or on the opposite standing for, the legitimacy of meat consumption [3].

French government will to impose, in this context, its own ideological and economical choices is openly admitted:

Current French Minister for Agriculture, Mr. Bruno Le Maire, announced the implementation of a national program for the food which also aims at slowing down the impact of some speeches, like the one ex-Beatle Paul McCartney held, who called in December, outside the Copenhagen summit, for a "go meat free once a week" to slow global warming. This call had sparked a general outcry among farmers [4]

The pursuit of an institutional nutritional lie

For several years, through several releases from the French National Nutrition and Health Program (PNNS) ,and its public website: www.mangerbouger.fr, public authorities libel Vegetarianism and Veganism.

This, when it is clearly admitted nowadays and by numerous medical and sanitary authorities all around the world, that to the contrary, we can live, and be in a very good shape, without consuming any meat and animal products. For example:

The position of the American Dietetic Association is 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. [5]

The debate on the animal exploitation legitimacy is of philosophical, ethical and political nature and must continue. It is not acceptable that the French State, on behalf of some public health measure based on nutritional lies, wants to forbid this debate by outlawing the concrete expression of a conviction.

Vegetarians mobilize

Vegetarian collectives and associations get organized everywhere in France to express their indignation in front of this decree, warn public opinion and deny food assertions spread by public authorities. Actions are going to be organized in an imminent way in all France regions.

They call all individuals and organizations willing to struggle for freedom of conviction, whatever are their own positions concerning the animal exploitation, to join their voice to these protests.

Citizen Initiative for Vegetarians Rights (ICDV) has already contacted the United Nations in May to indicate concrete episodes of discrimination against vegetarians in France [6]. If the decree is not removed, the ICDV announces a new complaint against France for violation of the freedom of conviction.


Notes:

*Vegetarians eat no red meat, white meat, fish or other aquatic animals (prawns, crabs, lobsters etc) or slaughterhouse by-products such as gelatine, animal fat, lard or rennet.

Vegans eat no animal products at all including red and white meat, fish and other water creatures, dairy products (eg cow's or goat's milk or derivatives such as yoghurt or cheese) or eggs. A vegan lifestyle also avoids leather, wool, silk and other animal products for clothing or any other purpose.

[1] Decree N 2011-1227 of September 30th, 2011 and order of September 30th, 2011. These texts follow upon the law n°2010-874 of July 27th, 2010 called "agriculture and fishing modernization law", which arranges that: "the public and private school and university catering services administrators, as well as children under 6 years old catering services, health care establishment, social and medical and social establishments and penitentiaries have to stick to those rules, determined by decree, of nutritional quality of the meals which they propose []."

[2] Statement on the elimination of all forms of intolerance and discrimination based on religion or belief, proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly on November 25th, 1981 (http://www2.ohchr.org/english/law/religion.htm), the art. 1.1.

[3] In particular Jonathan Safran Foer "Eating animals" (Kinkle editions, January, 2011); Marcela Iacub, "Confessions d'une mangeuse de viande - Pourquoi je ne suis plus carnivore" (Fayard editions, March, 2011); Dominique Lestel, "Apologie du carnivore" (Fayard editions, April, 2011).

[4] AFP news of 21/01/2010 (http://tinyurl.com/FlashLeFigaro).

[5] Official position of the American Dietetic Association; see http://www.adajournal.org/article/S0002-8223(09)00700-7/fulltext.

[6] See on the blog of the ICDV, http://www.icdv.info/