Friday, May 15, 2009

Go for Ghent! Donderdag is Go! *(disclaimer: I just can't change the stupendo-enormo type. Sorry for shouting)

Oh my! Those Belgians ... first they give us the monstrous city of Brussels (ask me some time), and then they give us the supreme rockin' awesome wonderfulness of Ghent.

Reproduced below is an article from today's Age where the city of Ghent is introducing Donderdag, which as well as being an amusing word to say - for me, anyway; probably not if you're Flemish - is a day when the city places vegetarian food at the forefront. It might be only for one day a week, and it's clearly not compulsory, but the outstanding success of having a city council not only formally recognise the damage that eating meat does to our bodies and to the planet, but then to risk condemnation and ridicule by taking some pretty far-reaching and positive action, is incredibly cheery.

(Although I must say I'm a bit leary of Miss Karien De Temmermann, a member of the Flanders Ethical Vegetarian Association [EVA], who says that "I never touch meat, unless I'm at my grandmother's and I need to be polite". Buck up, Karien. If your grandmother was polite she wouldn't think it was polite to expect you to eat meat any more than she'd expect you to eat a lovely plate of muddy dirt from the garden. Also, the animals don't think you're very polite. There's no such thing as a part-time-etarian.).

A meat-free revolution to help save the planet

  • Ian Traynor
  • May 15, 2009

This Belgian city wants people to go vegetarian once a week to fight just about everything.

THE Belgian city of Ghent yesterday embarked on a radical experiment that seeks to make every Thursday a day free of meat and of the fish and shellfish for which the city is renowned.

"Donderdag — Veggie Dag" has turned 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 city council says it is the first town in Europe and probably the Western world to try to make the entire place vegetarian for a day every week. The Labour Party councillor pushing the scheme, Tom Balthazar, said: "There's nothing compulsory. We just want to be a city that promotes sustainable and healthy living."

Every restaurant in the city is to guarantee a vegetarian dish on the menu, with some going fully vegetarian every Thursday. From September, the city's schools are to make a meat-free meal the "default" option every Thursday, although parents can insist on meat for their children. At least one hospital wants to join in.

A small, dreamy city of spires, bicycles and canals, prospering since the Middle Ages, Ghent may be on to something. It seems to be tapping into an awareness of the cost to human health and the environment of intensive meat and dairy farming. Other towns in Belgium and the Netherlands are making inquiries; there has even been one from Canada.

"We hope that the university, other institutions, enterprises and other towns will jump on the train," the director of the local branch of Flanders Ethical Vegetarian Association (EVA), Tobias Leenaert, said.

The organisers cite UN data arguing that meat production and consumption are to blame for 18 per cent of greenhouse gases — more than cars. "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," EVA says.

"I never touch meat, unless I'm at my grandmother's and I need to be polite," Karien De Temmermann, a young EVA member, said.

"This is not a plan for everyone to be forced into vegetarianism," said Wim Coenen, a vegan who works as an importer of vegetarian pet food from Italy. "But it will reduce our carbon footprint. The basic premise is to introduce a way of lessening our meat consumption."

The revolution began yesterday with a foodie festival at the vegetable market. Ninety thousand town maps listing the best eateries for the meat-shy were handed out. Recipe booklets and food samples were distributed, with fair trade wine to wash down the nibbles.



Mandee said...

That's fantastic, I hope the town really gets into it.

And Karen, impolite is the new black.

Tobias Leenaert said...

hi there, karlien is my colleage at the veg organisation, and the journalist misquoted her. she made exceptions in the past, but not so anymore (just for the record, this might ruin her reputation among vegetarians worldwide ;-)


Miss T said...

Hi Tobias,
Well that's great to hear! I don't know if you have the same problem in Belgium as we have here, but sometimes people claim they are vegan or vegetarian, but go on to eat animal products when they're a) bored; b) greedy; c) lazy; or d) can't be bothered - and this really gives all of us a bad name, making us look like we're flighty and uncommitted and secretly can't wait for an opportunity where we 'have' to eat meat!

Glad to hear that Karien was misquoted and thanks for the update. I wish Melbourne would take a leaf from Ghent's book!

Cheers, Rachel