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A Danish Town Is Requiring Its Businesses to Serve Pork

The pork order has led to a full-on “meatball war” that has raised questions about religious tolerance in the historically homogenous Christian country.
Photo via Flickr user andreelau

While many cities require that municipal institutions provide things like a functioning sewer or bus system, a city in Denmark—a country that thankfully has both those things—is mandating that public institutions serve pork. And though the order may seem an odd one that only those crazy Danes could dream up, it's less benign than one might think.

The pork order has led to a full-on "meatball war" that has raised questions about religious tolerance in the historically homogenous Christian country.


The Guardian reports that in an effort to make sure city institutions are serving up enough Danish food, the central Denmark city of Randers (population 60,000) is requiring that municipal institutions make "Danish food culture as a central part of the offering—including serving pork on an equal footing with other foods."

The city government says that the order isn't intended to force pork upon those whose religion prohibits it, namely Muslims and Jews. But in the midst of the ongoing Syrian refugee crisis, the anti-immigration Danish People's Party (DPP) is cheering the order, saying it is "unacceptable to ban Danish food culture."

READ: There's a Danish Town Overrun with Giant Oysters

If you were unaware that pork was such an integral part of the Danish way of life, the Danish Agriculture and Food Council offers some numbers to prove it: the country of 5.6 million people is home to around 5,000 pig farms that produce about 28 million pigs annually. Pigs and pig products make up 5 percent of the country's exports, and 90 percent of its pigs are exported, making Denmark one of the world's largest pork exporters. Crispy pork with parsley sauce became the country's national dish in 2014.

Denmark is poised to enact a number of harsh laws in the face of an influx of Muslim refugees, including an asylum law that would allow police to seize valuables like jewelry and cash to pay for the expenses the Danish government faces in dealing with refugees. In September, Danish officials put an ad in Lebanese newspapers that read, "Don't come to Denmark."


On Facebook, Martin Henriksen, a spokesman for the DPP, wrote, "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."

But some politicians are arguing the other side of the coin, whereby the mandate might force pork on Muslims. On Facebook, Manu Sareen of the Danish Social Liberty Party accused the Randers politicians of "wanting to impose a forced ideology … in this case on children."

The debate over whether or not to serve pork out of respect for Muslims has been a contentious issue in Denmark since 2013. Then, the former prime minister admonished nurseries that had dropped pork from their menus. However, a survey found that just 30 of Denmark's 1,719 daycares had done away with swine or had switched to halal meat.

READ: What's Killing Young Danish Chefs?

Pork has occupied an increasingly antagonistic space in an ongoing global clash of cultures. While the meatball war continues in Denmark, in the United States pork has been used in acts of vandalism targeting mosques and Islamic centers. A pig's head was thrown at the Al-Aqsa Islamic Society in Philadelphia in December, and mosques in Las Vegas and Titusville, Florida, were likewise vandalized using pork in recent months. The New York Timesreports that efforts to remove pork from school cafeterias, for instance, have been fought by right-leaning mayors in French towns, too.

In Denmark, the DPP has made pork an issue in the past. The DPP agreed to bow out of a tight mayoral campaign in Copenhagen if the incumbent mayor would promise that public canteens would serve more pork meatballs. They also secured a guarantee that the city would bring back its official Christmas tree.

For now, pork will remain king in Randers. And so the meatball war grinds on.