In a move that perhaps should not come as a surprise, the German environment ministry has decided to ban meat and fish from being served at official government functions. Environment minister Barbara Hendricks has ruled that only vegetarian food is to be served. Meat-loving ministers are not happy: Crying nanny-stateism, they’re claiming that the switch to meat-free catering proves that the government will start micro-managing the lives of German citizens.
According to Der Spiegel, Hendricks sent an email to her department informing them of the new rules, which came into effect in February. Not only are meat and fish off the menu, but all food will be seasonal, regional, produced on organic farms, and sourced from Fair Trade providers if available. Prices will be capped at $35 per person for food, and around $6 for beverages.
Clearly, this is about leading by example: For a ministry whose job it is to regulate environmentally sustainable practices and inform the public of the consequences of meat overconsumption and overproduction, “it was a matter of credibility,” environment ministry spokesperson Michael Schroeren told The Guardian.
And yet, other members of Germany’s government are seriously enraged. “I believe in diversity and freedom of choice, not nanny-statism and ideology. Meat and fish are also part of a balanced diet,” agriculture minister Christian Schmidt said in The Telegraph. Schmidt is from Bavaria, in the conservative south of Germany, and has previously insisted German schools serve pork, even though Muslim and Jewish kids wouldn’t be able to eat it.
Others have pointed out that the ministry cafeteria still serves meat and fish, alongside veggie dishes, calling this a sign of hypocrisy. But the environment ministry has countered that argument, saying they’re not trying to govern what people eat. Rather, they’re ensuring that the values they espouse are reflected in the food they serve in an official capacity. Also, it’s unlikely that also banning meat from the cafeteria would do anything to appease the meat-lovers.
If Christian Schmidt really does “believe in diversity and freedom of choice,” then perhaps he can give the environment ministry the freedom to choose its own menu. The knee-jerk reaction against Hendricks’s very thoughtful move is typical of an establishment feeling threatened by something new. But generally, when this kind of wrath ensues, it usually means that whatever the holdovers are arguing against is actually a great idea.