World first: Capital of Scotland opts for plant-based diet to tackle the climate crisis
Edinburgh recently made the news as the first capital city in the world to sign the Plant Based Treaty. In doing so, the Edinburgh City Council acknowledges that our food system plays a pivotal role in the climate and biodiversity crises and therefore in tackling them. Rather than meat and dairy products, plant-based foods will become the fundamental type of food served at government and school cafeterias in Edinburgh. And if it were up to the City Council, the rest of the UK should follow suit. Elsewhere in the world, the principle of “Plant-based by default” – a concept coined by senator Henriëtte Prast of the Dutch Party for the Animals – is gaining more and more prominence and a following. According to the Edinburgh alderman who took the initiative of endorsing the treaty, this is: “a win-win-win situation for society. Plant-based food has a smaller impact on the environment, ensures significant health benefits and has a mitigating effect on animal welfare issues.”
“All across the board, scientists are emphatic: if we wish to achieve our climate goals, the consumption of meat and dairy products must be reduced, “ a report that was commissioned by the Edinburgh City Council states: “There is clear evidence that diets high in plant protein and low in meat and dairy lead to lower greenhouse gas emissions and that shifting consumption towards plant-based foods can provide a significant impulse in the right direction.” The City Council will therefore urge the Scottish government to endorse the Plant Based Treaty on behalf of the entire country.
Drafted by the Climate Save Movement to complement the Paris Agreement, this treaty consists of 38 concrete steps governments can take to curb the expansion of the livestock industry, switch to a more plant-based food system and restore ecosystems. Among other things, governments signing the convention pledge not to allow new factory farms or slaughterhouses to be established and or existing intensive livestock farms to be expanded; to stop allocating grants to the livestock industry and large-scale fisheries and, instead of that, put money into the environmentally friendly production of plant products and reforestation and nature restoration projects.
Carnist? Put yourself on the list!
More and more individuals and policymakers now realise that the livestock industry is contributing at an alarm scale to global warming, deforestation, the pollution of rivers and oceans, environmental degradation, animal suffering, and health problems, including the emergence of zoonoses. They also acknowledge that these problems cannot be resolved without fundamentally changing our food system. Just like the Plant Based Treaty, the “Plant-based by Default” or “Carnist? Put yourself on the list!” campaign offers concrete tools to do just that. In those cases where, in accordance with the principle of “Plant-based by Default”, a plant-based diet is the standard and people who nevertheless want to eat meat, fish or dairy will be expected to indicate this in advance, the consumption of animal products appears to decrease enormously without people feeling impaired in their freedom of choice.
This principle is low-threshold and easy to implement everywhere. Plant-based is also becoming more and more the standard. In the Netherlands, for example, this is currently the case at the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science, the Municipality of Amsterdam and the Province of North Holland. At university and school cafeterias in Berlin, Scotland, the UK, France and China, meat and dairy have since been substituted for most or part of the week with plant-based alternatives. Additionally, Lebanon’s Hayek Hospital has decided to become the first hospital in the world to stop serving animal products to patients. Meanwhile, seven out of ten European citizens have said in a public survey that the European Union should stop pouring billions of euros into subsidising cow milk at schools, but should encourage healthy plant-based milk substitutes in school cafeterias instead.
Abolish the livestock industry
The Party for the Animals has been working tirelessly for years to abolish the livestock industry and switch to a sustainable food system that is better for people, animals, nature, the environment and the climate. Political leader Esther Ouwehand called on the Dutch parliament to endorse the Plant Based Treaty, and MEP Anja Hazekamp is fighting in the European Parliament for the abolition of billions of grants allocated for advertisements encouraging people to eat meat and the intensification of the meat industry. Together with the British Animal Welfare Party as well as representatives of the Plant Based Treaty, the party campaigned for a food revolution at last year's climate summit in Glasgow and earlier, together with sister parties worldwide, launched a petition to world leaders advocating a seven-step plan to change the food system.