Tomorrow, public officials in the Flemish city of Ghent will observe a new weekly “holiday” that’s been making international headlines: “Veggiedag.” Civil servants and elected politicians will eat meatless meals, and the streets will be littered with city-sponsored anti-meat ads. Now that the people of Ghent have two Veggie Days under their belt, we’ve been curious to know how the weekly anti-meat parade is catching on. And according to this TIME magazine report, the answer is “very slowly.”
Eben Harrell describes the scene in Ghent last Thursday:
While most restaurants owners and residents I spoke to had heard of Veggie Day, few had any plans to embrace the concept. A local rib shack, Amadeus, was doing brisk business, and many people openly ate hot dogs on the street.
Bustling rib shacks and conspicuous hot dog consumption – not exactly a PETA paradise.
From an environmental standpoint, of course, this lack of enthusiasm doesn’t matter much. As several experts have pointed out, giving up meat is highly overrated in the eco-friendly department. But if forgoing the Flemish beef stew once a week is practically useless as an ecological exercise, why bother?
As one delicatessen operator told Harrell, Ghent’s meatless Thursdays are good for something: lip service.
Wim De Kinder, owner of the upscale Traiteur Grimod delicatessen, said he tried to introduce vegetarian fare two years ago after learning of the environmental cost of livestock production, but he couldn’t shift enough product to make it profitable. "I can’t be expected to make a loss for the sake of principle, however worthy," he says.
Like ingredient bans, zoning ordinances, and meaningless food labels, Veggie Thursdays are an unsustainable gesture – a nod to a cause it will never achieve. And just as De Kinder is expected to take a loss for his city’s meatless holiday, someone pays for bans, labels, and other symbolic food policies.
On a lighter note, can you gues the name of the Norfolk, VA neighborhood in which you’ll find the headquarters of anti-meat industry thought leader PETA? Yep. It’s "Ghent." You can’t make this stuff up.