Millau, France, 1999. McDonalds is about to open a branch, but local farmers get there first. They park their tractors next to the brand-new building, tear the place apart and start handing out their own wines and cheeses. A protest against globalization and for good taste.
Wageningen, the Netherlands, 2020. McDonalds still hasn’t opened a branch here. It almost happened three years ago, but the municipal council blocked it. Two Wageningen secondary school students are not having it anymore, and have launched a petition to get the fast food chain to their town.
The protest in Millau took place 20 years ago last summer. Reason enough for the Dutch newspaper NRC to interview the people involved. How did it all end, down there in France? Well, the McDonalds in question opened with a slight delay and is still in business. The activist farmers were sentenced for vandalism, but to this day they prefer to describe their action as ‘dismantling’.
Back to Wageningen. Whether Roos and Sveva will get their way is anyone’s guess. A much more interesting question is what products Wageningen could offer as an alternative to the ubiquitous Big Mac. In the spirit of Millau, we have organic wine from the Wageningse Berg and cheese from the Binnenveld, of course. But we’ve also got beer made of grain from the Wageningse Eng, meat from cattle grazing in the water meadows of the Rhine, and – it was discovered in early February – truffles from the woods. All in all, very reassuring.
Vincent Oostvogels (24) is exploring the delicate interface between nature management and food production through his two Master’s programmes, Forest and Nature Conservation and Animal Sciences.