MUNICH — Michelle Obama would be proud.
A group of German politicians is pushing for workplace cafeterias to institute an unpopular vegetarian day once a week where employees cannot eat popular Bavarian meats, such as schnitzel and wursts.
It’s not too different from the first lady’s goal of having healthier foods in U.S. school cafeterias.
The controversial proposal from the left-leaning Green Party — which could make even New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s soda ban look trivial — seems about as un-German as placing speed limits on the Autobahn.
Ahead of the national elections this fall, the proposal, which is unlikely to pass, is not sitting well with voters. And it’s created a bit of a headache for the Greens, the German magazine Spiegel reports.
The Greens‘ proposal has provided campaign fodder for their conservative opponents — Chancellor Angela Merkel’s ruling Christian Democratic Union, and their junior partner, the Free Democratic Party — who have used the issue to take the focus away from complaints about Ms. Merkel’s reluctance to come down harder on America for the NSA spying scandal.
The firestorm started Monday, when senior Green politician Renate Künast told a tabloid about her plan for a healthier Germany, followed by a vegetarian recipe that she posted on Twitter.
“A veggie day would be a great opportunity to see how we can nourish ourselves without meat and sausage,” she said.
She received support for the idea from Katrin Göring-Eckardt, a top Green Party member: “One doesn’t need two burgers every day,” she said.
But no meat and sausage — for an entire day?
The rival Free Democrats were having none of that. They organized an impromptu street barbecue in front of the Green Party’s headquarters in Berlin to protest the move, carrying signs that read: “Hands off my sausage.”
The suggestion of limiting Germans’ sausage intake — on average they eat more than 130 pounds of meat each year — has been met with much backlash from the Greens‘ political opponents.
A spokesman for Agricultural Minister Ilse Aigner said, “At the end of the day, we need a balanced diet and meat is part of that.”
The FDP’s Rainer Brüderle also chimed in: “People are smart enough to decide on their own when they eat meat and vegetables and when they don’t. Constantly telling people what they do is not my understanding of freedom and liberty.”
Later, the Greens tried to back track, explaining vegetarian day would be optional and they were simply trying to encourage Germans to eat healthier, but the damage was done.
“The Greens don’t want to forbid anyone from eating meat,” said party co-chair Cem Özdemir. “But we want there to be alternatives.”