vegetariër

Summary

Cooking for a family would be relatively simple if everyone ate what was put in front of them. More and more families are having to cope with one or more wayward members who have become vegetariërs - vegetarians. If you're really unlucky, then you'll have another child who demands meat every day. Daily, there are concerns about cross-contamination - worries about veggie burgers that too closely resemble meat and which stock cubes ended up in the soup.

Cooking for a family would be relatively simple if everyone ate what was put in front of them. More and more families are having to cope with one or more wayward members who have become vegetariërs - vegetarians. If you're really unlucky, then you'll have another child who demands meat every day. Daily, there are concerns about cross-contamination - worries about veggie burgers that too closely resemble meat and which stock cubes ended up in the soup.

A solution would be if we all gave up meat, which I'm happy to do as long as I can have an occasional steak. Tobias Leenaert has taken this much further. He has persuaded the city of Ghent to promote Thursday as a meat-free day, including removing meat from school menus, the first city in the world to do so. It was a great stunt, which drew the attention of the world's press and television on the first Thursday.

Sao Paolo is planning to follow suit soon, and thousands of US mayors have been approached to do the same. Now Macca and Yoko Ono have jumped on Tobias' bandwagon, calling for meat-free Mondays. But as with many prophets, Tobias Leenaert was not immediately recognised in his own land: Flemish TV channels ignored the launch day.

Tobias suspects that vested interests are at work in Flanders. The authorities are keen to promote spaarlampen (energy-saving bulbs) and openbaar vervoer (public transport) but say nothing about minder vlees eten - eating less meat. When it was suggested that Leuven become the second Veggiedag city in Flanders, de Boerenbond - the Farmers Union - protested vehemently.

On Donderdag Veggiedag, vegetarian dishes are the day's special in Ghent town hall canteens and schools. Restaurants similarly promote non-meat dishes. It seems a gentle way of putting across the message. As Tobias says, "Eet geen vlees" is een te moeilijke boodschap - "Eat no meat" is too difficult a message. "Minder vlees eten" is veel haalbaarder - "Eat less meat" is much more feasible.

Being a vegetarian in Flanders still means that you have to deal with questions like "Waarom eet je eigenlijk vegetarisch?" - Why do you actually eat vegetarian? Most carnivores can't imagine that people do it because they don't like the taste. Another question vegetarians face is: "Zijn die schoenen van leer?" Are those leather shoes? (though less so in this sneaker world).

Tobias has set up the Ethisch Vegetarisch Alternatief to inform people about the benefits of vegetarian food. He doesn't preach about animal rights or frighten passers-by with photos of abattoirs. He believes his simple message speaks for itself. He hopes his Veggiedag spreads and that beef steak finally becomes an issue on the political agenda.

www.vegetarisme.be