This week, Belgium becomes the second country in Europe to join the “meat-free week” movement, an initiative aimed at persuading people to reduce their meat as well as dairy intake for the benefit of the planet.
The initiative was started by food blogger and vegan activist Isabel Boerdam in the Netherlands in 2018 as “Week Zonder Vlees” (week without meat). According to Week Zonder Vlees, since its inception, the campaign has convinced 2.7 million Dutch citizen to switch to a plant based diet at least for one week per year. “More than 80% of participants said after the campaign that they wanted to eat less meat permanently. That’s how we’ll really make a difference”, Boerdam said.
The group behind the initiative is now taking to Belgium to do some convincing work, campaigning for a meat-free week from 23to 29 October. Joining the initiative, 25 Belgian restaurants, including 3 Michelin starred ones, have promised to only offer plant-based menus this week, while the team has called on health institutions, organisations, schools, caterers, local authorities, politicians and individuals to “take up the challenge”.
The Dutch Wageningen University & Research Institute has analysed data on what and how Belgians eat from Sciensano, Belgium’s public health institute, and provided some insight into the effect of switching to plant-based diets. According to the information, people in Belgium eat, on average, 182 grams of meat per day and slashing, or even just reducing that, could reduce greenhouse gas emissions as well as land use.
According to the research, replacing meat with alternatives could reduce greenhouse gas emissions by about 31%, depending on the type of meat replacers, and almost half if completely switching to a plant-based diet. Additionally, land use could be reduced by 31.4% to 32.5%, depending on the type of meat alternatives used and by 72% when completely switching to a plant-based diet.
People who wish to participate in the initiative can sign up on the Semaine Sans Viande website, the Belgian version of Week Zonder Vlees, to receive tips and several recipes to try out this week.
The initiative plans to also launch in Denmark, Germany, Spain and Austria in 2024 and 2025 and is looking to “encourage as many Europeans as possible to adopt a balanced and sustainable diet”.