2013-09-11

an audience with the empire

Tomorrow I'm going to talk to the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs about vegan food. Yes, that's right: I have an audience with Agentschap NL, which is a government institution that lends services to entrepreneurs with sustainable, innovative, or international ambitions. They offer subsidies, knowledge, and help with finding partners, appointed by The Empire itself. I've been on their mailing list for quite a while already, and tomorrow there will be a Green Deal information session in Den Haag, including an audience with a consultant, for which I submitted my proposal.

Responses from the 6 caterers to move into the new
Erasmus Food Plaza in November 2013
In my application letter I talked about my initiative to introduce vegan food (which, as we all know, is much more sustainable than animal food) on our horribly traditional broodje-kaas campus. I recounted the challenges I was facing with the Dutch facility management bureaucracy, the success I had by bypassing the blockers and going directly to the president who supported my initiative, the Facebook page I set up and the followers I gained, the article our campus magazine wrote about the initiative, the one which appeared on the website of the Dutch Vegan Society (Nederlandse Vereniging voor Veganisme), and the preliminary success: we will, from November on, actually have 4 caterers in the new food court that have committed to offer vegan food options (and to label them accordingly). 

Due to the success with this initiative, I would like to go bigger. When I received the invitation to the Green Deals information session I applied. And got a really nice e-mail back from one of the consultants (who is a vegetarian herself), asking for further information, especially in which way I think the government could help. I sent her a list, which contained the following points:

Vegan Food Pyramid
  • Change the official food pyramid issued by the Voedingscentrum, the Dutch dietetic authority, or at least offer an equivalent vegan food pyramid for people who want to live without animal products, such as this one, designed by artist Joshua Wold, a vegan himself.
  • Issue a ban on misleading statements by the livestock industry, such as "Everybody, from young to old, has to consume dairy every day" - a statement one of the biggest Dutch dairy companies has on their website, which is a flat-out lie, since the consumption of dairy is actually detrimental to human health. Also ban ads and packaging which show happy cows, pigs, or chickens on green pastures, which are far from the actual circumstances in which the majority of livestock has to live.
  • Gradually remove the gigantic subsidies for the livestock industry.
  • Introduce a consumer tax on animal products (especially meat, dairy, eggs, and fish), as advocated by several environmental and animal rights organizations.
  • Use the released subsidies and additional tax income for reinvesting in nation-wide campaigns which promote plant-based nutrition, e.g.: for the farmer who switches from livestock farming to growing grains, legumes, or vegetables for human consumption; for the fishery that steps over to harvesting sea weed instead of fish; for the education of the consumer who currently still thinks that meat and dairy need to be part of a healthy diet; and for the food service industry (restaurants and caterers) who often don't know what to put on a sandwich if meat, dairy, fish or eggs aren't supposed to be on it (e.g., by creating a Dutch version of this excellent guide for vegan catering, issued by the UK Vegan Society).
  • Widespread national introduction of subsidized plant-based cooking classes for everybody, but especially for school kids, young adults, and parents.
  • Introduction of a nation-wide label which only 100% plant-based products are allowed to bear (potentially in cooperation with the UK Vegan trademark which is also licensed to some German vegan producers).
  • Vegan startups or food services receive subsidies and/ or credits at favorable conditions.
  • Given that the consumption of animal products is completely unnecessary and has many disadvantageous effects on the environment and the nation's health (the Netherlands are among the countries with the highest meat and dairy consumption as well as the highest rates of cancer, cardiovascular diseases, and osteoporosis, which are all linked to the regular consumption of animal products), and lethal effects on the animals involved, animal products should in future display a health warning, just as cigarette and tobacco packs. 
In spite of my rather radical suggestions, I got the confirmation last week that I will have an audience. I have no idea whether anything will come out of it all, but it's at least worth a try. So I'll be on my way to Den Haag tomorrow afternoon to talk to The Empire. 

Stay tuned.



1 comment:

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