On Friday November 5th, the Helsinki City Council announced that Finland’s capital will stop serving meat dishes at seminars, summits, team meetings, receptions and other events from January 2022 to reduce its carbon footprint.
The city council said that the measure is part of a broader effort “aimed at reducing the climate impact of food and reducing the amount of natural resources used by the city.” The municipality plans to offer only vegetarian dishes and sustainable local fish.
Liisa Kivela, communications director of the Helsinki municipality, told AP news that the change in eating habits will come into effect in January and will exclude schools and cafeterias in workplaces. Kivela said that the city council’s policy also allows exceptions for some “high-level visits or similar events” organized by the mayor, Juhana Vartiainen, or by senior managers of the city.
The measure stipulates that coffee, tea, and foods such as bananas, offered at the events, will have to be purchased from fair trade producers. In addition, oat milk will replace regular milk, and snacks and drinks can no longer be served in disposable containers. In 2013, Helsinki declared itself a “Fair Trade city” and has been using fair-trade-related criteria in procurement tenders. The city has a population of about 650,000.
Mayor of Helsinki since August, Juhana Vartiainen said that the city will retain the option of serving meat on some occasions. “If the king of Sweden comes for a visit, local cuisine can be served. Or some group for which it is natural to offer meat. There must be discretion and common sense,” the mayor told the Finnish newspaper Iltalehti.
The municipality’s decision has this week generated intense debate on social media among citizens and politicians. MPs with constituents in rural Finland, where hunting is popular and game dishes are often served, were taken aback. Reindeer meat is often served to foreign dignitaries visiting Finland.
Finland’s Natural Resources Institute reported earlier this year that meat consumption in the country has fallen two years in a row as more people have decided to make burgers and sausages from vegetables.