Vegetarians Have Their Day

Discussion
May 21, 2009
Bernice Hurst

By Bernice Hurst, Contributing
Editor, RetailWire

Vegetarians have long
put up with scathing and sarcastic comments from carnivores criticizing
their dietary preferences. Nowadays, though, restricted meat consumption
has become a more universal habit due to concerns about "the cost
to human health and the environment of intensive meat and dairy farming." In
Ghent, a small town in Belgium, one day each week has been designated "vegetarian" by
local burghers (councilors) who endorse U.N. views that meat production
is responsible for nearly one-fifth of greenhouse gasses.

City officials hope that
reducing consumption will reduce pollution while improving health and so
they are encouraging people to make Thursdays in the city meat- and fish-free.
According to The Guardian, Labour Councillor Tom
Balthazar said, "We just want to be a city that promotes sustainable
and healthy living." The Daily Telegraph described the effort
as "an attempt to fight climate change."

Addressing issues such
as obesity, global warming, cruelty to animals and misconceptions about
vegetarianism simultaneously may seem a massive challenge but there was
apparently a lengthy line of people signing up to collect their whole food
goodie bag and commit to supporting the program on the night before it
started.

On the first day "Donderdag – Veggie
Dag" came into effect, every restaurant in the city guaranteed a vegetarian
dish on the menu while some promised to make every Thursday entirely vegetarian.
Schools plan to follow suit come September with Thursday’s default lunch
being vegetarian. Hospitals are reportedly also considering participation.

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

Wim Coenen, a vegan who
imports vegetarian pet food from Italy, added that the intention is not
to force people into vegetarianism but to reduce carbon and meat consumption.

Recipes, demonstrations
and advice supplemented the restaurants’ efforts so that people could easily
participate at home. Enquiries about possible participation have reportedly
also come in from other towns in Belgium as well as the Netherlands and
Canada.

Discussion
Question: Is information about the value of reducing meat consumption
having any effect on American consumers? Do you see this changing in
the foreseeable future? Would a vegetarian day ever work in the U.S.?

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16 Comments on "Vegetarians Have Their Day"


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Marc Gordon
Guest
Marc Gordon
11 years 11 months ago

You guys are good! For a minute there I thought this was a real article. Ask Americans to give up meat for a day? You guys won’t even adopt the metric system. If local governments are looking for ways to reduce green house gasses, there’s a lot of other things they can do that won’t result in millions of dollars in loses to a specific industry.

Ryan Mathews
Guest
11 years 11 months ago

The majority of Americans might “relish” the idea of switching to a government of “burgers” like they have in Belgium, but they’ll never go for Tofu Tuesdays.

W. Frank Dell II
Guest
11 years 11 months ago

American consumers are fast approaching the breaking point on what they can eat and do. It started with seat belts, cigarettes, moving to trans-fats and now non-diet soda. This is supposed to be the land of the free. The role of government is to educate consumers, not dictate to them. While working in Russia, I learned consumers ate what the government provided. Consumers were not used to choice and had not developed likes or dislikes. Once given a choice, they quickly learned what they liked and disliked.

If one wants a day like earth day to promote a way of life, fine, but don’t dictate to the American consumer.

David Livingston
Guest
11 years 11 months ago

This is just typical of any business with an agenda. Here the companies that sell vegetarian products make up some story about how meat production produces greenhouse gasses. It’s all about selling their product. Maybe meat producers should come out with a campaign on how vegetarian products are killing the polar bears.

Carol Spieckerman
Guest
11 years 11 months ago

Will knowledge of meat-eating’s impact on the environment (and health, and…) change habits in the U.S.? We may know after June 12th when Food Inc. premiers; a movie that Martha Stewart and others are all a’Twitter about. Why is eating meat such a hot-button entitlement; to the point where people actively resist learning where food comes from, how it’s processed and the impact that all of it has on the environment and human health? Can you be a meat eater and an environmentalist? Many think not.

Al McClain
Guest
Al McClain
11 years 11 months ago

Well, Bernice, judging from the first few comments, I guess you have your answer. We live in a country where many deny global warming, and many more deny that industrial and consumer practices have anything to do with it. And, as Carol says, many people would rather not know (or think about) where there food comes from. The best bet is to keep pushing via education, bit by bit. Eventually, perhaps not in our lifetimes, we’ll reach a tipping point on some of these big issues.

Anne Bieler
Guest
Anne Bieler
11 years 11 months ago

About 3% of Americans are vegetarians, and another 5% are “vegetarian inclined.” So can people change their attitudes and behavior? Of course, some of us will with the right motivation. Over time, with more understanding about nutrition and better alternative choices that taste great, and concerns over the environment growing, people will be eating even less red meat per capita. Choice is likely to drive change faster than a government mandate–publicity and awareness will have a larger impact.

Camille P. Schuster, PhD.
Guest
11 years 11 months ago

Americans have not given up cigarettes when told the can die from them. Why would they give up meat because it was good for them?

George Anderson
Guest
11 years 11 months ago

While “impossible” comes to mind when thinking if this is something that would happen across the board in the U.S., it does offer opportunities for specific food service operators and retailers. There are large numbers of consumers (many older and affluent) already inclined to seeking healthier eating alternatives. Many have cut back on red meat to eat more poultry and fish. Is it that big a leap for a percentage of these same consumers to go meatless one day a week?

Ken Yee
Guest
Ken Yee
11 years 11 months ago

I always enjoy reading vegetarian articles. I’m a meat eater, always will be. There’s pros and cons of either kind of food. But one thing’s for sure. For every one meat recall (which always gets highly profiled in the media), there’s at least 10 vegetable and fruit recalls due to salmonella or e. coli-laced produce.

Maybe it’s the food. Maybe it’s the medicine. Maybe it’s better shelter, but another fact…people are living longer and healthier. Most 1st and 2nd world countries have life expectancies of 70+. First-world countries skew towards about 80. Is all this meat vs. vegetables debating really worth it? I retract that question….it’s all about money.

G wagner
Guest
G wagner
11 years 11 months ago

I think if people knew how GREAT they will feel if they eat more plant based foods, then they will continue to eat that way. However, think of any change we’ve all made in our life…anything that really “sticks” is something we’ve done voluntarily and not been forced into.

I’ve been a vegetarian since 1974 and a raw vegan (no cooked food) for 5 years and I can say without question that when you start eating differently you totally change your life for the better. Fewer health issues=less time sick=more time working=more money=more to spend=keeping more people employed. See? It really DOES all come down to $. Namaste.

Gene Detroyer
Guest
11 years 11 months ago
It seems to me that there has been an ebb and flow to the meatless debate for 30 or more years. At different times it has revolved around different reasons. Health, cost, now environment. The fact is that meat eaters in the U.S. consume 2 to 3 times more volume of meat than they need for any health reasons. The fact is, it is an inefficient way of delivering nutrients. Cutting meat consumption to efficient healthful levels would have a much greater impact than a universal meatless day. But, both face the same reality. Education is certainly the right answer, but as noted in a previous comment, people certainly know that smoking will kill them, but they still smoke. Unfortunately, there is another side to government involvement in what we eat. Despite the financial crises the United States is now in, the future costs of healthcare looms as an even greater crisis. There are many estimates that if people would practice a healthier diet (fruits, vegetables, fiber, less meat and fewer processed products) that heart… Read more »
Ralph Jacobson
Guest
11 years 11 months ago

Live fast, die young. Who wants to be a skinny vegan who’s perennially hungry. I have eaten more than a thousand Whoppers in my life. Jay Leno hasn’t had a fresh vegetable since 1969. Am I a hypocrite? Absolutely! Do I volunteer at animal rescues each week and have two dogs and three cats? Yes! Will I give up the taste of flesh to save the planet? No! I ride a bike more than a 150 miles a week to kinda offset all my other vices. Have a great weekend, Americans! Grill those burgers!

Kai Clarke
Guest
11 years 11 months ago

McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s, Chile’s, Ruby Tuesday, Costco, Safeway, Kroger, Albertsons, Wal-Mart, etc. All of these serve meat, have a major investment in meat, and make up a majority of the top retailers in multiple categories. Throw in 7-Eleven, Tesco, and all of the dollar stores, and you have a round-up that touches every American.

Oh yeah, we cannot forget the largest employer in the US, the government (state, local and Federal) and we have Americans on every level getting access to meat. This is because meat is embraced on almost every level and in every channel by a large majority of Americans. This is not going to change any time soon, no matter what other vegetarians may describe.

Mark Lilien
Guest
11 years 11 months ago

Great pr from Belgium won’t kill meat sales. How many Americans know where Ghent is located? Effective ways to kill meat sales: mad cow disease, salmonella, high prices, and swine flu. Vegans have been around for hundreds (thousands?) of years. Unlikely to be a majority, unless the meat industry commits suicide using some or all of the 4 tools listed above.

Bruce D. Sanders, Ph.D.
Guest
Bruce D. Sanders, Ph.D.
11 years 11 months ago
Comparing meat eating to tobacco smoking in terms of addictive potential doesn’t ring true for me, so I bet lessons based on planting the seed about the payoffs in eating seed-based foods will be more effective than with antismoking education. But we might want to keep in mind that education can always be augmented with manipulation: In a study published last year(http://www.journals.uchicago.edu/action/showStoryContent?doi=10.1086%2F%2Fpr.2008.07.14.1555), an international team of researchers decided to trick some people into thinking the people were eating a beef sausage roll when they actually were eating a vegetarian alternative roll. What made a difference in the consumers’ ratings of taste and aroma was not so much what they ate as what they thought they ate. The meat elite -those who rated the “vegetarian item” low regardless of which it really was -were also the people who treasured power and strength in their lives. The researchers recommend that we initiate cultural reprogramming to imbue fruits and vegetables with associations of power and strength. Maybe it’ll work for bananas and cucumbers, but as for the rest,… Read more »
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