Danish town serves up pork ruling

COPENHAGEN • A Danish town has made it mandatory for public institutions to serve pork, drawing mixed reactions in what has been dubbed the Nordic country's "meatball war".

The town council of Randers in central Denmark said it wanted to ensure that municipal institutions such as nurseries provided "Danish food culture as a central part of the offering - including serving pork on an equal footing with other foods".

While it said the aim was not to force anybody to eat anything that "goes against one's belief or religion", the move was welcomed by the anti-immigration Danish People's Party (DPP), which said it was "unacceptable to ban Danish food culture".

"The DPP is working nationally and locally for Danish culture, including Danish food culture, and consequently we also fight against Islamic rules and misguided considerations dictating what Danish children eat," party spokesman Martin Henriksen wrote on Facebook.

By contrast, a former integration minister with the Danish Social Liberal Party, Mr Manu Sareen, accused the Randers politicians of "wanting to impose a forced ideology... in this case on children".

The town council of Randers said the aim was not to force anybody to eat anything that "goes against one's belief or religion".

"It really is incredible what politicians... get involved in," he wrote on Facebook.

Whether public institutions should be allowed to stop serving pork out of respect for Muslims has been a subject of heated debate in Denmark since 2013, when former prime minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt criticised nurseries that dropped pork from their menus.

In a subsequent survey, the tabloid Ekstra Bladet found that only 30 of the country's 1,719 day- care institutions had either stopped serving pork or switched to halal meat, which is meat prepared following Muslim rules.

The DPP agreed in November 2013 to abandon a closely fought mayoral campaign in suburban Copenhagen if the incumbent promised to serve more pork meatballs in public canteens and to bring back the town's official Christmas tree.

Denmark is home to 5.6 million people and about 13 million pigs, and sales of pork products and live pigs account for around 5 per cent of the country's exports.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 21, 2016, with the headline 'Danish town serves up pork ruling'. Print Edition | Subscribe