Fearing for the wurst: German ministry under fire for meat-free buffets

Politicians and policy wonks were forced to do a double take when they stormed the buffet at the German government’s symposium on “exporting green technology” in Berlin this month. Instead of the salami rolls, cocktail sausages or goulash soups one would ordinarily expect at similar functions in the German capital, the lunchtime menu offered Belgian endives with caramelised apple, celeriac escalope with honeyed carrots and a soya vegetable lasagne. The vegetarian spread was the first manifestation of the German environment ministry’s decision this month to became the first government agency to take meat and fish off the menu at official functions, citing a need to lead by example when it comes to environmentally sustainable consumption and the “consequences of consuming meat”. “We decided to take the symbolic step to ban meat and fish at external events because we want to practise what we preach,” environment ministry spokesperson Michael Schroeren told the Guardian. “For us it was a matter of credibility.”

Environment minister Barbara Hendricks.
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The environment minister, Barbara Hendricks, defended the decision in parliament. Photograph: Clemens Bilan/EPA

In a country where meat is often an emotive matter and your preferred choice of sausage can be more revealing of your origins than your accent, it was nothing less than a quiet revolution. With a general election looming in September, some politicians decided to interpret the initiative as a coup against carnivores, a politicised attempt to introduce a vegetarian nanny state by stealth.