Groups file suit over French school lunch 'vegetarian ban'
Vegetarian groups have filed a complaint with France's top administrative court over a government decree on school lunches they say discriminates against those who will not eat meat or dairy.
The decree, introduced on September 30, requires school canteens to adhere to minimum nutritional requirements including a protein element that must be meat, fish, eggs, cheese or offal.
The five groups said in a statement they had filed the complaint because the decree "conveys the idea to children that there is only one nutritional model".
"We expect the annulment of this decree, which violates freedom of conscience with a menu made up uniquely of meat and whose disastrous nutritional model considers vegetable proteins as no alternative whatsoever," Brigitte Gothiere, a spokeswoman for vegetarian group L214, told AFP.
L214, named after an article in the French Rural Code that states animals are "sentient beings," filed the complaint along with groups One Voice, The Association of French Vegetarians, Ecology Without Borders and the Vegan Society.
Despite vocal complaints from vegetarians, the decree has not sparked much controversy in France, where vegetarianism is uncommon.
A protest against the decree in October saw only about 20 activists rally in Paris.
Celebrity vegetarian Paul McCartney last month criticised the French decree as an attack on vegetarians' rights.
"The French government's recent decree effectively enforcing the consumption of animal products in public institutions is a backward step for France," the ex-Beatle wrote on his website.
"It goes against the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union by prohibiting individuals right to express their beliefs."
© 2011 AFP