Monday, May 18, 2009

Veggie Dag: Belgium City Goes Veg for a Day

In what has to be one of the truly inventive ways to reduce meat consumption and promote healthier eating habits, the Belgium city of Ghent went meatless last Thursday for the first time. This is something that you just won't see in North America but Ghent claims to be home to the most vegetarian restaurants per capita in Europe.

The city council of this town of 237,000 is determined to make every Thursday Veggie Dag! Tom Balthazar, the local politician behind the initiative stated, "There's nothing compulsory. We just want to be a city that promotes sustainable and healthy living." To that end every restaurant in town was asked to provide at least one veggie meal on its menu. Tens of thousands of flyers have been handed out marking veggie friendly restos while providing background information to the plan.

Not just a publicity ploy - though the town has been fielding inquiries from around Europe and North America - school cafeterias in Ghent will begin serving vegetarian lunches as its "default" meal when classes return in September.

Whether it becomes a weekly riual or not remains to be seen but the locals seem behind the idea and the mood throughout the town was more of a party mood than anything else. Free food samples were being offered, goodie bags were awarded burghers who signed a "declaration" promising to go veggie on Thursdays. To encourage veggie cooking at home, recipe booklets were also distributed.

The Flanders Ethical Vegetarian Association - one of the Veggie Dag sponsors - believes that greenhouse gas emissions will be reduced by 18 percent for the day. While livestock production accounts for 18 percent of greenhouse gas emissions through methane it seems improbable that GHG reductions of 18 percent can be achieved for one meat-free day. But you never know...

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