Vegetarian Thursdays for Belgian city

The city of Ghent, in Belgium, embarked this week on a radical experiment in the battle against climate change, obesity and animal cruelty by making every Thursday a vegetarian day, the Guardian reported. Ghent, according to the city council, is the first town in Europe (and probably the western world) to try a weekly day free of meat and fish.

“There’s nothing compulsory,” Tom Balthazar, the councillor pushing the scheme, told the newspaper. “We just want to be a city that promotes sustainable and healthy living.” Every restaurant in Ghent – which is known for its fish and shellfish — is to guarantee a vegetarian dish on the menu; some will be fully vegetarian every Thursday. Beginning in September, schools are to make a meat-free meal the “default” option on Thursdays, although parents can insist on meat for their children.

A prosperous city since the Middle Ages, Ghent appears to be tapping into an awareness of the cost that intensive meat and dairy farming have on human health and the environment, according to the Guardian. Other municipalities may follow Ghent’s example: towns in Belgium and the Netherlands have made inquiries about the plan, as has one in Canada.

The organisers cite United Nations data showing that meat production and consumption are to blame for 18% of the greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change. “This is not a plan for everyone to be forced into vegetarianism,” said Wim Coenen, an importer of vegetarian pet food. “But it will reduce our carbon footprint. The basic premise is to introduce a way of lessening our meat consumption.”

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