Some members of Vaud’s government are demanding a meat-free day in public canteens to promote more environmentally friendly eating, according to the newspaper Le Matin.
Producing a gram of animal protein has a much higher environmental impact than a gram of vegetable protein. Livestock production accounts for 70% of all agricultural land (grazing and feedstock – 33% of croplands are used for livestock feed production) and 18% of greenhouse gas emissions, more than transport. 70% of deforested land in the Amazon is now used for grazing livestock.
Some pre-school and out-of-school lunch canteens in Vaud have already introduced meat-free days. The current request would extend the practice to public canteens serving adults.
The proposal calls for the day to change every week to reach the maximum number of people.
Around 18 million meals are served annually in public canteens across the canton.
A similar proposal made in 2010 was rejected outright. This time it received more support and will now be studied by a commission.
In addition to the environment, there are health benefits from cutting down on meat. An average Swiss resident consumes 110g of meat a day, three times more than Swiss nutritional guidelines recommend. High meat consumption, particularly red and processed meats, is associated with certain cancers.
Meat, eggs and many dairy products often contain high levels of saturated fat, something the World Health Organisation associates with heart disease.
However, there is a risk that forcing meat eaters to change will deepen resistance. After all, how many of us like being told what to do?
At the same time, many of those already converted to the idea would probably welcome a proper meat-free meal option every day of the week – removing the meat from a typical meat dish is not enough.
According to one recent survey, 31% of Swiss are vegan, vegetarian or flexitarian – 33% in German-speaking Switzerland and 24% in French-speaking Switzerland.
If canteen goers were given a meat-free option five days a week it could have more impact than forcing everyone to go meat free once a week. Taking a stand and forcing people to do something rarely has the desired outcome. Just ask a parent with teenage children.