Where’s the beef? Muslims appeal to French mayor to stop school cafeteria from serving meat

From EuropeNews

France: Municipality wants school cafeteria to stop serving meat to Muslims

Islam in Europe 8 February 2010

I don’t fully understand this story. If the parents don’t want their children to eat meat in the cafeteria, who’s forcing them? Some families did not want their children eating meat at the school cafeteria in Angoulême (France) for religious reasons. The mayor wants to grant their request.

No meat from the menu, but no alternative either. The municipality wants to officially mediate the delicate problem which arose non-officially several years ago: The families who don’t want their children to eat meat in the cafeteria for religious reason have turned to the mayor. The municipality wants the cafeteria staff to grant their request.

Marie-Line Huc, municipal counselor and dietitian doesn’t think it’s a blow to secularism. They simply chose to respect the choice of the responsible parents as to the education of their children. On the other hand, there’s no question of replacing the meat with something else, not with halal meat or any other source of proteins. This means that they will not be served a main dish on days when, for example, the main dish is shepherd’s pie.

Still in this case, everybody’s walking on eggshells. wanting to develop ‘balanced and varied meals’ and to make time spent in the cafeteria ‘a moment of discovery’, Marie-Line Huc had to obey the majority decision, taken after long debate, despite her misgivings. “Our values remain the same,” she says, and adds that she doesn’t think that they’ve relented on their secular convictions. “I remain convinced that the dietary offer don’t need to be burdened with religious of philosophical consideration… It’s true that this decision bothers me. but for now, it concerns ten families who made the request at the Cézanne-Renoir school and the Saint-Exupéry school. And it is socially difficult for us to remove these families from the cafeteria. We simply hope that this won’t snowball.”

To avoid the headache, the municipality planned to organize two informational meeting in the schools by the end of January, In the presence of the imam of Angoulême, who will explain some things to the families. Because a Muslim child doesn’t have to conform to the religious dietary regulations and therefore not requires to eat halal meat until they’re old enough to make their own decisions.

According to the Cézanne-Renoir school, the municipal decision, in any case, is difficult to adapt to. Michèle Giet, principal of the elementary school, says it presents them with an ethical problem. The cafeteria is a service, and it’s not compulsory to eat there. The parents should adapt to the proposed menus, and not the other way around. The principal thinks that the municipal decision opens a door to other things, such as vegetarian menus for vegetarian families. The cafeteria is not a restaurant, they invite the children to taste things they don’t like such as spinach, for example. A mission of culinary discovery which is part of the job.
Faced with both dietary intolerance and religious principles, the cafeteria risks becoming difficult to find one’s way in. The principal says they are not there to check each other’s religion, and then if a child wants to try the meat, they’ll have to check whether his parents wrote the mayor or not.

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