The debate wasn't even contentious. Last month, the Vancouver Food Policy Council (VFPC) voted to support the concept of Meatless Monday and encourage residents to cut back on their consumption of animal-source foods. It was another step toward making Vancouver 'the greenest city’, given the environmental downsides of intensive meat production. It was also a sign of exciting progress for this issue in the past decade.
The VFPC had a large amount of information for its decision, including from Emily Pickett of the Vancouver Humane Society (VHS). Emily has been working with educators and city officials to promote MM, and she spoke articulately and poignantly at the meeting. That’s Emily in the attached photograph, standing between Dave Steele of Earthsave Canada (L), and me (R). The work of Emily and VHS has already resulted in Meatless Monday initiatives at Langara College, the B.C. Institute of Technology, and Eric Hamber school.
This past week’s Food Policy Council decision was also made in a changing culture. Meat is increasingly being recognized as a food that - when produced intensively in factory farms - uses a lot of planet, creates a lot of waste, and treats animals in ways most of us would find ethically unsupportable.
Almost ten years ago I presented the case to the VFPC for a campaign on 'less and better' meat consumption. Having just written the book High Steaks: Why and How to Eat Less Meat, I offered evidence that -- for food systems to become sustainable -- we'll need to move meat from the centre, to the side, of the plate. The response from the Food Policy Council of the time was cool.
But today the idea of eating less meat is more mainstream. Canadians have been gradually lowering their meat consumption for years. That's not to say that the VFPC's support will translate to endorsement of MM from city council itself. That remains to be seen. And three years ago, when Vancouver became the first Canadian city to support MM by endorsing a one-off Meatless Monday, though most media reports were encouraging, a few articles expressed anger at the suggestion that we moderate our intake of pork chops and steak. City council may want Vancouver to be green, but councillors also need to consider their voters. I’ll keep you updated.
Read more about the Vancouver Food Policy Council's endorsement here.