“Ghent embarks on a radical experiment today, seeking to make every Thursday a day free of meat and of the fish and shellfish for which the city is renowned.”
- The Guardian
The Belgian city of Ghent is 30 miles west of Brussels, with a population of around 200,000. Just over a week ago, this small city committed to taking a major step forward in environmental responsibility, setting an example for the rest of the world to follow.
“On the eve of what is being touted as an unprecedented exercise, the biggest queue in the Flemish university town of 200,000 yesterday was for signatures – to collect a bag of wholefood goodies and sign up for ‘Donderdag – Veggie Dag’, turning the burghers of Ghent into pioneers in the fight against obesity, global warming, cruelty to animals and against the myth that meat-free eating amounts to a diet of soggy lettuce, a slice of tomato, and a foul-tasting bean burger.” – The Guardian
City officials have declared that meat intake is a major contributor to pollution, and say that making one day a week meat-free “is good for the climate, your health and your taste buds.” Tom Balthazar, a Ghent city councilor who is backing the initiative, quotes the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), when he says that meat production is responsible for 18 percent of greenhouse gases.
Ghent’s officials are teaming up with Belgium’s national vegetarian organization, EVA (Ethical Vegetarian Alternative), and adopting Thursday as a vegetarian day for officials. From September, the city’s schools will be making a meat-free meal the “default” option every Thursday. At least one hospital wants to join in.
An EVA statement said: “Ghent, in co-operation with the vegetarian organization EVA, is determined to go the extra mile in our common battle against climate change. Other Belgian cities have already shown interest in following Ghent’s example.”
The city council was persuaded to back the idea when vegetarian chef Philippe van den Bulck served a gourmet banquet at the town hall. Philippe Van den Bulck is an upcoming young chef who has worked in some of the finest restaurants all over the world, including elBulli in Spain, which is considered by many to be the best restaurant in the world.
The city threw a party to celebrate the first veggie day. Recipes were distributed, as well as a list of vegetarian restaurants (Ghent has more vegetarian eateries per capita than London, Paris or Berlin), and demonstrations were given on how to cook a ‘green’ meal.
According to The Guardian:
“The revolution starts today (Thursday 14 May) with a foodie festival at the vegetable market. Ninety thousand town maps listing the best eateries for the meat-shy are being handed out. Recipe booklets and food samples are being distributed, with fair trade wine to wash down the nibbles. A nearby restaurant is serving a four-course veggie lunch for €12. The kebab house on the market is eschewing the doner for broadbean falafel…”
“We hope that the university, other institutions, enterprises and other towns will jump on the train,” said the director of the local branch of EVA. Other towns in Belgium and the Netherlands are making inquiries; there has even been one from Canada.
“If everyone in Flanders does not eat meat one day a week, we will save as much CO2 in a year as taking half a million cars off the road,” said the EVA.
This reminds me of a story from Taiwan last year, where one million people pledged to be vegetarian as part of the effort to reduce carbon emissions and fight global warming.
“More than one million people in Taiwan have pledged to help cut carbon emissions by being a vegetarian. Taiwan’s population is about 23 million, and the one million vegetarians would reduce at least 1.5 million tons of carbon emissions in Taiwan in one year.
The Union of NoMeatNoHeat made the announcement during its anti-global warming drive. Many prominent politicians, such as the legislative speaker, the environment minister, and Taipei and Kaohsiung Mayors all pledged to become vegetarians.
The Union said if a person eats only vegetables for a whole year, roughly 1.5 tons of carbon emissions can be cut.”
The inspiring initiatives from Taiwan and from the town of Ghent are setting an example for the rest of the world to follow.
I hope to see something like this occur in the US, where meat consumption is embarrassingly high. According to The Worldwatch Institute,
“The United States and China, which contain 25 percent of the world’s population, combine to consume 35 percent of the world’s beef, over half of the world’s poultry, and 65 percent of the world’s pork.”
As explained in Kathy Freston’s article, Vegetarian is the New Prius,
“For a decade now, the image of Leonardo DiCaprio cruising in his hybrid Toyota Prius has defined the gold standard for environmentalism. These gas-sipping vehicles became a veritable symbol of the consumers’ power to strike a blow against global warming. Just think: a car that could cut your vehicle emissions in half – in a country responsible for 25% of the world’s total greenhouse gas emissions… Last year researchers turned their attention to another gas guzzling consumer purchase… The researchers found that, when it’s all added up, the average American does more to reduce global warming emissions by going vegetarian than by switching to a Prius.”
For more information on how transitioning to a vegan diet can reduce an individual’s impact on the environment and help to bring about the ethical evolution that will lead us into a safe and prosperous future, please read The Vegan Solution and watch the short, informative video A Life Connected.