By Roger Clarke
Vancouver’s Greenest City Action Team released its preliminary report last month, and I have just one question: Where’s the lack of beef?
Despite a letter from a coalition of environmental and animal-rights groups pointing out the research showing a clear connection between animal agriculture and climate change, the GCAT’s “Quick Start Recommendations” make no mention of reducing our city’s consumption of animal products.
The team does recognize that our food choices have environmental consequences, which is part of the reason for encouraging “consumers to purchase more locally produced food”. So why not also encourage consumers who want to go green to eat less meat?
Of course, the report is full of sensible suggestions, and I’m glad to have a municipal government that takes environmental stewardship seriously. But I have to wonder just how serious the commitment to environmentalism really is when the GCAT ignores one of the easiest, most cost-effective ways of fighting climate change, preserving forests, and saving endangered species.
After all, it’s not like the team members aren’t aware of the consequences of animal agriculture. The David Suzuki Foundation recommends that we eat less meat, and David Suzuki is on the team. Despite the aforementioned letter from environmental and animal-rights groups, which was sent to all of the GCAT members, the team has made no mention of the environmental impacts of meat, eggs, and dairy.
And before you start thinking I expect the city to do something crazy like ban meat within the city limits, keep in mind that all anyone’s looking for from the GCAT on the subject is a recommendation that Vancouverites try to reduce their meat consumption. Nothing binding, nothing extreme. It would make a tremendous difference for the better if we all just tried to replace our regular meals with meatless meals two days a week—that would amount to the 25 percent reduction the letter suggested.
Vancouver wouldn’t be the first city to make such a recommendation to its residents. The city of Ghent, Belgium, just recently inaugurated “Veggie Days”, encouraging residents to—you guessed it—go vegetarian one day a week to help save the planet.
We wouldn’t be the first city in North America, either. The number-one food-related recommendation of Cincinnati’s Climate Protection Action Plan (sound familiar?) last summer was “reduced meat consumption”, to be pursued through public education about meat and the environment as well as meat-free days once a week in city schools, with vegetarian options every day. That’s Cincinnati, in the heartland of America, not especially known for drum circles and hacky sack in city council. This is not a radical proposal.
An interesting feature of the Cincinnati report is that it found that the change in school menus would actually save the city money—the report finds that the plan would be “at least cost neutral by year three”. So the reason the GCAT avoids recommending reduced meat consumption can’t be money—managed right, we could reduce expenses and meat consumption at the same time.
The GCAT isn’t avoiding the meat question out of ignorance, they aren’t avoiding it because they’re afraid of being too radical, and they aren’t avoiding it to save money. So what gives? Where’s the lack of beef?
Roger Clarke is a director of Liberation B.C.