USA | Berkeley

First US city opts for vegan canteens

Animal rights organizations are putting on the pressure in the US. Here the Peta in July 2020 in Florida.
Imago Images
Animal rights organizations are putting on the pressure in the US. Here the Peta in July 2020 in Florida.

In the Californian city of Berkeley, only plant-based food is to be put on the plates in city institutions in the future. To achieve this goal, the city council has now passed a resolution to halve the purchase of animal-based foods by 2024. In the long term, all animal products - including cheese, milk and butter - are to be completely replaced by plant-based products. A drumbeat.

So that it does not remain with the words, the city manager is to present a timetable for the implementation of this goal to the city council by June 30, 2022, reports the online portal VegNews. Soon, more veggie dishes should be on the menu at city facilities such as senior centers, cafeterias, city jail and summer camps. Only schools are exempt from the decision for now, because the district is responsible for catering, it says.

Animal products as climate killers

The city of 120,000 on the west coast of California is a leader in the fight against climate change and has already implemented numerous measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Food contributes to about 25 percent of globalCO2 emissions and also causes significant emissions in Berkeley, according to the adopted resolution. Literally, "It is clear that the world cannot meet global greenhouse gas reduction targets without significantly reducing consumption of animal products. High meat-consuming nations like the United States, which consumes 2.6 times more meat than the global per capita average, must share in this responsibility."

Currently, U.S. citizens eat an average of more than 100 kilos of meat and sausage products per year. By comparison, meat consumption in Germany dropped to 57.3 kilos per person last year.

The council's decision was helped along by a 16-month campaign by Berkeley-based animal rights organization Direct Action Everywhere (DxE). Other groups joined DxE's effort such as Extinction Rebellion Oakland, The Animal Save Movement, East Bay Animal PAC, PETA and The Suitcase Clinic.

Pioneer Berkeley

Berkeley, in the immediate vicinity of San Francisco, is now expected to trigger a vegan wave in the country and serve as a model.
Imago Images
Berkeley, in the immediate vicinity of San Francisco, is now expected to trigger a vegan wave in the country and serve as a model.
A number of vegan initiatives have already started in Berkeley in the past: For example, Berkeley was the first city to introduce "Vegan Monday" in 2018. This goes beyond "Meatless Monday" and calls for all city residents to basically give up all animal-based foods on Mondays. The "Green Monday" resolution, introduced by three City Council members at the time, is one measure of many to become carbon neutral as a city by 2030. To lead by example, the City Council itself now serves only vegan food at its meetings.

Accordingly, Mayor Jesse Arreguín of the City of Berkeley welcomes the recent decision, saying that this is a very important step for the city as part of its broader climate commitments and builds on a long tradition of treating animals humanely here in the city and actively promoting this.

Now, other U.S. cities are expected to follow this example and do their part to protect the climate by not using animal products. In this way, the US animal protection organisationsarenow exerting their pressure on other metropolises such as Chicago or, for example, San Francisco, which had already passed a partial resolution to phase out animal husbandry last year.

The public is rising up and taking action against destructive animal agriculture, said Almira Tanner, a Berkeley resident and head of the animal rights organization DxE. "We hope that this historic step can trigger a wave of legislation to protect all life on Earth while we still have time," Tanner said verbatim.

The city of Berkeley is equally considered a pioneer in implementing recycling programs, moving away from fossil fuels and other environmentally and animal friendly initiatives. Berkeley, for example, was the second city after West Hollywood to ban fur sales within city limits in 2017 - and that was before California became the first US state to show the red card to fur sales by law in 2019.

US steps up climate action

Following in the footsteps of several US cities, Hawaii became the first US state to declare a climate emergency in April 2021. US President Joe Biden is firmly declaring war on climate change compared to his predecessor Donald Trump and wants to halve the country's greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 compared to 2005 levels.