The Current

Meatball war: Denmark seen as anti-refugee by mandating pork on menus

Towns in Denmark invoke the so-called Danish food culture card by making pork mandatory on the menus of public institutions. It is emblematic of a turn in attitudes across Europe, as refugees try to settle in countries that are now saying they are overwhelmed.
The meat of Denmark's refugee debate seems to be pork. Some towns are putting mandatory pork on the menu, sending what many call an anti-refugee message. (dbgg1979/Flickr cc)

Read story transcript

Late January of this year, the Danish parliament instructed authorities to begin seizing asylum seekers' assets on arrival — confiscating items over $2,000 Cdn. The move was condemned around the world.

But another heated issue involving refugees and Danish society, dubbed "the meatball wars" has been simmering way. The issue revolves around pork.

Forbidden in the Muslim diet, yet a national dish of Denmark, laws have been sprouting up making pork a mandatory item on the menu of certain public institutions. The Danish town of Randers is just one of the latest cities to pass such a law. 

"We are proud of our country, and we welcome refugees and others who want to seek our neighbourhship, but we are Denmark, and we have traditions."- Claus Omann Jensen, mayor of Randers, Denmark

Some say the recent mandating of pork on menus in public institutions as part of a greater nationalistic campaign to discourage refugees from going to the country, but critics say pork meatballs and sausage is part of an established Danish tradition and should be available to newcomers.

The tension rising from the Danish "meatball wars" is one that experts say reflects a larger, European-wide tension.

Guests in this segment:

This segment was produced by The Current's Leif Zapf-Gilje, Idella Sturino and Marc Apollonio.