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每周食素一天:为了健康,更为了环保

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The Belgian city of Ghent has declared Thursdays meat-free days. Should cities around the world join in the vegolution?

People usually associate politicians, particularly in these troubled times, with hot air. But rather than spew out noxious gases, politicians and public officials in Ghent – the progressive Belgian city – have come up with a unique scheme to reduce the city's greenhouse gas emissions.

You've probably heard of fish Fridays. Well, the Flemish university town of some 200,000 people has now introduced a weekly "Veggie Thursday" (Donderdag – Veggie Dag).

So, what does Ghent – a picturesque town where cycling is a pleasure and not a death-defying gamble – hope to achieve?

By encouraging public officials, school children and ordinary citizens to go voluntarily veggie one day a week, the city hopes to improve public health, reduce our impact on the environment and enhance animal welfare. In fact, according to the UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO): "The livestock sector emerges as one of the top two or three most significant contributors to the most serious environmental problems, at every scale from local to global."

And if the idea catches on, the impact could be enormous. "If everyone in Flanders (population: six million) does not eat meat one day a week, we will save as much CO2 in a year as taking half a million cars off the road," said the Ethical Vegetarian Association spokesperson. Imagine if every city in the world followed suit!

This is the kind of pioneering and creative initiative I have come to expect from the city that has been my home for the past four years. After all this is the place that declared its independence for a day last year in protest against the slow crumbling of the Belgian state. Under its tranquil surface lies a friendly but radical core of progressives, leftists, tree-huggers and eco-warriors.

So even though I ate out in Brussels yesterday, I plumped for a veggie option: a delicious Lebanese mezze. Don't get me wrong, I'm by no means vegetarian. In fact, I love indulging in carnivorous delights – I have even overcome my beef with pigs – and sometimes stand weak before the temptations of the flesh.

But for the past couple of years, my wife and I have radically changed our diet and try to eat meat or fish only a couple of times a week. After an initial period of adjustment, we both feel healthier – I've even shed the Buddha belly that I had begun to grow – and better about putting less of a strain on the food chain and reducing our carbon footprint.

Although traditional Belgian cuisine is quite rich and fatty, Ghent has a surprisingly large array of delicious veggie eateries and veggie options on menus, but Brussels easily beats it for its mind-boggling range of cuisines.

"There has been a massive increase in demand for vegetarian dishes at my restaurant over the past few years," Wim Vandamme, a Ghent restauranteur told me. "The selection of vegetarian dishes we offer has also grown considerably." Vandamme says that his clients are eating veggie mainly for their own wellbeing, then comes animal welfare, and finally, the environment.

The idea has triggered interest among other cities in Belgium and the Netherlands, as well as Canada. It has also been picked up by media around the world and captured the imagination of ordinary people. "One meatless day a week is a great idea, and no loss for those who want a tasty diet," said languedocienne on the Guardian's environment blog.

It even looks as though the idea may attract more tourism to Ghent. "Right, that's the holiday booked! Ghent here I come!" Ciderguard enthused, as did other commenters.

Of course, there's much more that can be done. But Juanveron's scepticism is perhaps uncalled for: "Imagine the reactions of a starving African or Asian family when they hear that, somewhere in Europe, people will abstain from eating meat for one day (what a sacrifice!)."

The fact that millions suffering from malnutrition and famine is disgraceful and must be addressed, but reducing the meat consumption of the wealthy will help increase global food supplies and push down prices, as well as helping protect the environment for future generations. I think it's time to take this idea global.

Let the vegolution begin!


比利时根特市已经声明星期四为无肉日。世界各地的城市是否也应该加入素食运动?

人们总是把政客与说大话联系起来,尤其是在此艰难时期。不过,进步的比利时城市根特的政治家和公务员们推出了一项独特的措施,旨在减少城市温室气体的排放,而不是屁话连天。

你可能听说过“食鱼星期五”。很好,如今佛兰德语大学城大约二十万居民推出了每周一次的“素食星期四”。

那么,根特——在这个风景如画的城市,人们把骑自行车当成人生乐趣,而不是挑战死亡的冒险——希望达到什么目标呢?

根特市希望通过鼓励公务员、学生和普通市民每周自愿素食一天,来改善公众健康、降低人类对环境的影响,提高动物的待遇。事实上,据联合国粮农组织(FAO)说,“从地方到全球,畜牧业正逐渐成为引发最严重环境问题的前几位原因之一。”

如果素食的观点流行起来,影响可能是巨大的。伦理素食协会发言人说,“如果佛兰德斯(六百万人口)的每个人一周有一天不吃肉,一年就能减少相当于五十万辆汽车停运而减少的二氧化碳排放量。”想象一下,如果全世界所有城市都照这样做会怎么样!

这一开拓性和创造性的倡议,来自我已经生活了四年的城市。毕竟,在去年,这个地方为了抗议比利时国家的缓慢崩溃而宣布独立一天。在这座表面平静的城市中,生活着进步人士、左倾份子、树木拥抱者和生态斗士友好而激进的精髓。

因此,尽管昨天我外出去布鲁塞尔吃饭,也还是选择了素食:一份美味的黎巴嫩Mezze。你可别误解我的意思,我绝不是素食主义者。其实,我非常享受肉类美食——即使我已经强迫自己以猪肉替代了牛肉——有时还是难以抗拒肉食的诱惑。

在过去几年中,我和妻子已经完全改变了日常食谱,尽量每周只吃一两次肉或鱼。经过了初期的调整阶段之后,我们都感到更健康了——甚至我那已经开始鼓起来的大肚腩也消下去了——我们为能减少食物链的压力降低我们的碳足迹而感到高兴。

尽管传统的比利时烹饪多脂油腻,根特仍然有一大批美味素食小吃店,菜单上也有大量的素食可供选择,真是令人惊讶。而布鲁塞尔的美食系列更令人难以置信,能轻易地把根特比下去。

“在过去几年中,来我餐馆顾客对素食菜肴的需求量已经大幅度增加。”餐馆老板维姆·万带姆告诉我,“我们提供的素食菜品种也增加了很多。”万带姆说,他的顾客吃素,主要是为自身健康着想,其次为动物待遇,最后才是为环境着想。

这种观念已经激发了比利时、荷兰以及加拿大其它城市的兴趣。世界各地的媒体也已经注意到这一点,同时赢得平民百姓的想像力。“每周一天无肉日是个了不起的主意,想吃美食的人并没有损失。”languedocienne在卫报的环境博客上写道。

看起来,这个观点甚至会吸引更多游客光临根特。“不错,那是个预定的假日!根特,我来了!”西德格德像其他批评家一样热情地说。

当然还有更多可以做的事情。不过,Juanveron的怀疑也许并不必要:“想像一下吧,听说欧洲某地的人民每周忌肉一天(那是多大的牺牲啊!),饥饿中的非洲或亚洲家庭会有何反应!”

数百万人受到营养不良和饥饿折磨的事实是可耻的,必须加以解决,而减少富人们的肉食消费将有助于增加全球食物供应,降低食品价格,而且还有助于为子孙后代保护环境。我想到了把这种观点传遍全球的时候了。

让素食运动开始吧!

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