German politicians have been butting heads over a decision to ban meat products from official environment ministry functions.
The move was instigated by the environment minister, Barbara Hendricks of the Social Democratic Party (SPD), who pointed out: “We’re not telling anyone what they should eat but we want to set a good example for climate protection, because vegetarian food is more climate-friendly than meat and fish.”
However the decision to ban traditional German food such as bratwurst from the menu at ministry receptions, report launches or when entertaining diplomatic guests has led to friction with the SPD’s coalition partners, the conservatives. The party – made up of Angela Merkel’s ruling Christian Democrats and the Christian Social Union – is currently behind the SPD in opinion polls just seven months before federal elections.
Perhaps feeling a bit stung at the possibility of becoming junior coalition partners, conservative ministers have accused Hendricks of “nanny-statism” and trying to force meat-eating on people “by the back door”.
However, delivering its meat- free message, the environment ministry said it was important to take the lead in the fight to combat the “negative effects of meat consumption” – and the message seems destined to fall on fertile ground in the country at large.
Despite being an avowedly omnivorous nation, Germany is becoming more meat free by the year. The European Vegetarian Union, a nonprofit organisation, calculates that almost 10 per cent of the population – just under 8 million people – are now vegetarian, which hopefully means growing support for more meat free government ministries.