Thursday Is Veggiedag in Ghent, Belgium
By the time you read this with your morning coffee, the plates will have been cleared at the first official Veggiedag (Meatless Day) in Ghent, Belgium.
As reported by the BBC, mayor Tom Balthazar has officially declared Thursday meatless in his city of nearly a quarter million people. In an effort to make the connection between meat consumption and greenhouse gases (18 percent of which come from livestock production), Balthazar has asked his fellow civil servants to abstain from meat every Thursday; vegetarian meals will also be served in the city schools.
Earlier this year, Germany’s federal environment czar publicly urged his fellow citizens to reduce meat consumption, but those words have yet to be translated into deeds, as they are in Ghent, which may be the first city in the world to implement an on-the-books meatless day.
Well before most of us were born, the U.S. tried its hand at a government-endorsed Meatless Monday, but for different reasons. As head of the U.S. Food Administration (under Woodrow Wilson), Herbert Hoover spearheaded a massive WWI conservation effort, urging Americans to observe Meatless Mondays and Wheatless Wednesdays, to help feed the troops. The poster, pictured above, was part of a government-sponsored advertising campaign.
As many of you know, last September, I launched a meatless recipe feature in this space every Monday in response to remarks by Rajendra Pachauri, the Chair of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. To recap, Pachauri said that if there’s one thing we can do to help save the planet, it’s taking a break from meat once a week.
What’s happening in Ghent is undoubtedly intriguing, but I’ve got a hunch that many on this side of the Atlantic will argue against government intervention over what Joe & Jane Public puts into their mouths. As Balthazar said in his audio interview with the BBC, Veggiedag is completely voluntary and the idea is to create awareness of and community around an issue of environmental and health import.
Can you imagine a government-implemented Meatless Day in your city? Is this an issue that should rest in the hands of local officials or should it become an issue on the national agenda, with President Obama setting an example?
I can’t wait to hear what you think. Meanwhile, take the poll and weigh in.
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