LE PECQ, France (AP) — By taking meat off the menu in school canteens, the ecologist mayor of one in every of France’s most famously gastronomic cities has kicked up a storm of protest and debate because the nation more and more questions the environmental prices of its meaty dietary habits.

Youngsters in Lyon who had been frequently supplied such decisions as beef and hen in wealthy sauces discovered their meat possibility lacking this week after they returned from faculty holidays. As an alternative: a meatless four-course meal that Lyon Metropolis Corridor says might be faster and simpler to serve to kids who, due to the coronavirus pandemic, have to be saved aside throughout lunch to keep away from infections.

Metropolis Corridor insists that the meatless meals are non permanent and that faculty canteens will once more supply meat choices when social distancing guidelines are relaxed and kids as soon as once more have extra time to dwell on their meals decisions and to eat.

And the meat-free menus nonetheless include animal proteins. This week’s deliberate predominant programs embrace fish on Monday and Friday and eggs — both as omelettes or laborious boiled with a creamy sauce — on different days. Youngsters additionally get salad starters, a milk product — usually cheese or yoghurt — and dessert.

Nonetheless, farmers noticed pink. Some drove farm autos, cows and goats in protest on Monday into Lyon, which is fiercely pleased with its wealthy restaurant tradition and signature dishes, lots of them meaty.

Protesters’ banners and placards extolled meat-eating, proclaiming “meat from our fields = a wholesome youngster” and “Stopping meat is a assure of weak point towards coronaviruses to return.”

The federal government’s agriculture minister, Julien Denormandie, additionally weighed in, accusing Lyon Metropolis Corridor of “placing ideology in our youngsters’s plates.” He and different critics argued the measure would penalize kids from poorer households who won’t be capable of eat meat exterior of college.

“From a dietary perspective, it’s absurd to cease serving meat,” the minister stated Tuesday on RTL radio. “From a social perspective, it’s shameful.”

Though fueled by the quintessentially French obsession with meals and the nation’s highly effective farming foyer, the furor has additionally gathered steam and brought on a political hue due to France’s electoral calendar.

A wave of wins by inexperienced candidates, together with the mayor of Lyon, in municipal elections final 12 months dealt a blow to the centrist get together of French President Emmanuel Macron. Their success mirrored rising considerations in France concerning the environmental harm from intensive farming and different inexperienced points. With extra native elections anticipated later this 12 months, the arguing over Lyon’s faculty meals supplied a foretaste of broader political battles to return.

Lyon Metropolis Corridor stated serving the identical meal to all kids, as a substitute of providing them their typical meat and meat-free choices, would shorten the time they take for lunch. Metropolis Corridor stated it has simply two hours to feed 29,000 kids, which is a tougher schedule to maintain when courses should be saved aside in canteens to attenuate virus infections. Metropolis Corridor stated it additionally opted for meat-free meals as a result of they go well with all kids, together with those that habitually do not eat meats for non secular, dietary or different causes.

The mayor, Gregory Doucet, stated he’s a flexitarian, eats meat in cheap quantities, and is not attempting to power vegetarianism on kids.

“With the ability to supply a seated scorching meal to all the kids is essential,” he informed broadcaster BFM-TV. “That is Lyon, the capital of gastronomy. For us, taste can also be important.”