The far-right mayor of a town in southern France is removing the pork-free school-meal option starting Monday, describing it as “anti-republican” and contrary to the French state’s secularism.
The decision not to provide alternative meals when pork is being served in school cafeterias, announced by the National Front Mayor of Beaucaire Julien Sanchez, will be implemented on January 15, the first day of the new school term.
The change is likely to impact approximately 150 students, primarily Muslim, in the town’s six schools, constituting around 25% of the students who rely on school meals every day.
“The substitute meals, anti-republican meals, implemented by the [predecessor’s] municipality will be removed in Beaucaire,” wrote Sanchez in the municipality’s newspaper.
The mayor added, in an interview with the conservative French magazine Valeurs Actuelles, that pork will now be served every Monday in school canteens.
“Everyone has been informed and those who refuse to permit their children to eat [pork] can find another solution,” said the mayor.
“Religious imperatives have no place in an educational establishment.”
“I respect the motto ‘liberty, equality, fraternity.’ Equality in planned menus, fraternity with our French farmers and especially pig breeders who are particularly struggling at this time, and the liberty to go and eat elsewhere for those who are not satisfied,” he added.
France’s minister for sexual equality, Marlene Schiappa, told BFM TV that Sanchez’s decision was a “typical example of someone brandishing secularism as an anti-Muslim or anti-Jewish political weapon.”
The head of the opposition in Beaucaire, Laure Cordelet, condemned the decision as an “attack on children’s rights.” The decision, said Cordelet, “stigmatizes the [city’s] Maghreb community and in no way can be justified in the name of secularism.”
A representative of the students’ parents, Anne Moiroud, is organizing a “Republican Picnic” to protest the mayor’s directive.
“The idea is that we, the parents, whether Muslim or not, will not send our children to the school cafeteria on Mondays because that is the day that pork is being served. Instead, we will all eat together at the town hall,” Moiroud said.