A Danish city has ordered pork to be mandatory on municipal menus, including schools and daycare centers. The move is necessary for preserving the country’s food traditions, according to the politicians. They insist that is not an attack on Muslims.
The Associated Press reported that Frank Noergaard, a member of the council in Randers, says that the proposal was made to ensure that pork remains a central part of Denmark’s food culture. It says,
“Danish food culture must be a central part of the offering — including serving pork on an equal footing with other foods.”
The proposal also adds that its intention was not to force anyone to eat something that “goes against one’s belief or religion.” Pork is forbidden under religious dietary laws for both Muslims and Jews.
Martin Henriksen, a spokesman for the Danish People’s Party, a far-right anti-immigrant party that backed the measure, wrote on his Facebook page that the move was necessary to uphold Danish culture in the face of potential threats from Islam.
“It is unacceptable to ban Danish food culture, including dishes with pork, in Danish child care institutions. What will be next?! The Danish People’s Party is working nationally and locally for Danish culture, including Danish food culture, and that means we are also fighting against Islamic rules and misguided considerations dictating what Danish children should eat.”
In 2014, crispy pork with parsley sauce was named Denmark’s national dish. The Danish Agriculture and Food Council states that the consumption and export of pork are crucial to Denmark’s economy. There are about 5,000 pig farms in the country, with several million animals. The council wrote on it website,
“Exports of pig meat account for almost half of all agricultural exports.”
It was not surprising that the ubiquitous pig had become a point of contention. Ayse Dudu Tepe, an archaeologist and radio host, born in Denmark to Turkish parents, noted, with more than a hint of wryness, that she could understand those agitating on behalf of pigs.
“In a country with more pigs than humans,” she wrote on her Facebook page, “it makes perfect sense to have a political party talking on behalf of the pigs.”
Charlotte Molbaek, a member of the Socialist People’s Party on the Randers Town Council, accused that the proposal was politically motivated. The Danish People’s Party has become a potent political force, in part by railing against immigration and fashioning itself as the protector of traditional Danish values. She was quoted by Politiken, a daily newspaper, saying the following during a debate on the measure.
“What do children need? Do they need pork? Actually not. But the Danish People’s Party does. Children need grown-ups.”
The decision is likely to please anti-Islamic lobby groups. Although the council stressed that it did not want to force Muslims or Jews to eat food that contradicts with their religious beliefs, some considered the decision a message to refugees and other migrants that Denmark was unwilling to give up parts of its culture to accommodate others.
This “meatball war“ draws its roots from an event in 2013, when the then prime minister, Helle Thorning-Schmidt, criticized nurseries that had stopped serving pork because Muslim children refused to eat it.
Tabloid Ekstra Bladet followed up with a survey that found out that only 30 out of the country’s 1,719 daycare institutions had either stopped serving pork completely, or switched to halal meat, prepared following Muslim rules.
Denmark has become one of Europe’s most restrictive countries in terms of dealing with the influx of refugees. Last week, the Danish government secured a parliamentary majority for an immigration bill that would also allow police officers to seize cash and valuables from refugees according to a report in the Washington Post. The proposal has provoked outrage internationally. Switzerland passed a similar law years ago.
[Photo by: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg via Getty Images]