Tuesday, May 19, 2009

City Goes Vegetarian to Cut Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Finding Dulcinea - Monday, May 18, 2009

By Hayley A. Lovett

The Belgian city of Ghent will encourage residents to not eat meat every Thursday, highlighting the environmental and health benefits of a reduced-meat diet.

Cutting one day of meat consumption may cut greenhouse gas emissions for the city of Ghent by as much as 18 percent, one of the promoters of Ghent’s "VeggieDag" (Veggie Day) told Reuters.

A 2006 report from the United Nations found that cattle farming emits more harmful greenhouse gasses than cars and other modes of transportation. The report also explains that a great deal of land on Earth is dedicated to livestock, "which now use 30 per cent of the earth’s entire land surface," adding that most of it is for grazing, "but also including 33 per cent of the global arable land used to producing feed for livestock," said a UN News Center piece on the study.

Ghent officials want to help reduce the environmental impact of animal farming. The town is not forcing its citizens to become vegetarian, but rather encouraging citizens to choose not to eat meat on Thursday. Government employees and politicians will be eliminating meat one day a week, and restaurants are encouraged to provide one vegetarian option during the "Veggie Day." In September, schools will start offering a meat-free lunch, but Veggie Day started last week, the BBC reported.

According to the BBC, Ghent is the first city in the world to go vegetarian one day a week. But the "veggie day" is not the first campaign encouraging people to follow a reduced meat diet. Meatless Monday is a nonprofit based in the United States that encourages people to avoid animal products on Monday. The organization, started in 2003, has a goal to reduce U.S. consumption of saturated fat by 15 percent by the year 2010. The main focus of the Meatless Monday campaign is to prevent heart disease, stroke, diabetes and cancer caused by diets high in saturated fat.

Australia recently started a campaign to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from livestock by 30 percent by the year 2030. Currently, animal flatulence (methane gas) creates more than one tenth of the country’s total greenhouse gas emissions. One method of reducing methane emissions is to encourage residents to farm and eat more kangaroo, an animal which naturally produces less methane due to special bacteria in its stomach.

In the United States, an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) mandate that required some livestock farmers to report estimates of animal emissions angered both pork farmers and environmentalists alike. The farmers felt that the EPA did not provide enough guidance for how to comply with the new mandate, while environmentalists felt that the rule, requiring only very large livestock operations to report numbers, was not comprehensive enough.

Blogger's Note:

While I think it's great that people around the world are considering reducing their meat intake for health and environmental reasons, it's too bad they aren't also doing it out of compassion for animals. A lot of people love animals and would never think of eating their cat or dog, yet they don't extend their love to other animals such as pigs, chickens and cows. This needs to change.