Vegans and vegetarians are used to weird reactions when they divulge their eating choices: from well-meaning people accidentally offering you fish to folks who get very curious about how you get enough protein, there’s a bit of a learning curve. But sometimes, those reactions occur on a larger scale: across the globe, official reactions to veganism range from uninformed to just plain strange.
Luckily, that’s not always the case: more and more, governments and other structures are facilitating and even encouraging this dietary choice. With that in mind, here are just a few of the strangest reactions to plant-based diets, as well as a few of the best.
Strangest Reactions to Plant-Based Diets
1. Germany asks for meat at a vegetarian festival.
When UmweltHaus, a German environmental group, decided to hold a vegetarian Earth Day festival in the German city of Kassel, the city council had a very strange request: include sausages on the menu. Apparently, councilors in Kassel argued that the Ahle Wurst sausage is such a source of regional pride that not including them would be “an affront to the city’s identity.”
UmweltHaus is holding its ground on the vegetarian theme of the festival, saying that the link between meat production and climate change would make providing this sausage a major no-no.
2. Italy criminalizes the vegan diet for children.
Last summer, the Italian parliament introduced a bill that would send parents of vegan children to jail for four years if the children became ill or malnourished while following the diet. The bill was introduced by Italy’s center-right party after four cases of malnourished children being hospitalized after being fed a vegan diet over the past 18 months.
Dietitians, however, say that it’s perfectly possible to feed children a healthy, complete vegan diet, and that the cases of malnutrition don’t come from the diet itself but from people who don’t understand how to consume a properly balanced plant-based diet.
3. Germany claims the vegan diet is dangerous.
Given that veganism is gaining so much popularity in Germany, with research showing that there up to ten percent of Berlin’s population ascribing to a vegan diet, it came as a shock when, in August, Germany released an official statement claiming that the diet is hazardous.
“A purely plant-based diet makes it more difficult to give the body some of the important nutrients it needs,” the statement reads.
4. An Australian ad claims that being vegan makes you less Australian.
In an odd choice for an Australia Day lamb ad last year, a SWAT team was shown “saving stranded Aussies” abroad from missing a traditional barbecue back home. In one scene, a team smashes into the home of a man in New York, saying “C’mon mate, in a few hours you’ll be eating lamb on the beach.” When the man says that he is “vegan, now,” the SWAT team torches a bowl of kale on his table.
Vegans in Australia were so upset by the ad that they took their Anger to the Advertising Standards Bureau.
Luckily, stand-up comedian Dave “Hughesy” Hughes has since launched a campaign to debunk the idea that eating meat makes you “more Australian.”
“It doesn’t need to Moo for you to be True Blue,” he said.
5. The American dairy industry hoards the word “milk.”
The dairy lobby in the U.S. introduced the Dairy Pride Act in January, in an attempt to forbid the plant-based food sector from using the terms milk, yogurt, and cheese on nondairy products. The Act claimed that the use of these words is confusing for consumers, while the plant-based food sector argued that the use of the words is a way to signal the intent of how the food is supposed to be used, and that no reasonable consumer would be confused by the terms being used on plant-based items.
Top Plant-Based Diet Wins
1. Portugal makes it illegal not to serve vegan food in prisons.
In early 2017, Portugal passed a law legally requiring all public canteens to provide a vegan option, including in schools, universities, hospitals, and prisons. This law was passed after the Portuguese Vegetarian Society circulated a petition that amassed more than 15,000 signatures.
This effort has inspired a similar petition in the UK. It would need to gather 100,000 before April 3 to be debated in Parliament; currently, it only has about 18,000.
2. Norway’s military adopts Meatless Mondays.
In 2014, Norway’s military decided to fight the battle against climate change: the army announced it would be serving meatless meals to soldiers both at home and abroad every Monday.
Navy commander and nutritionist Pal Stenberg said that the decision was made out of ecological as well as health concerns.
3. The Irish president officially condones the vegan diet.
The former president of Ireland, Mary Robinson, urged attendees of last year’s One Young World Summit in Ottawa, Canada, to consider the environmental impact of their eating choices and “eat less meat, or no meat at all.”
“We have a world where there’s inequity and inequality,” she said. “We can be simpler in the parts of the world that have benefited from fossil fuel.”
4. China calls for a reduction in meat consumption.
Last year, the Chinese government outlined a plan to reduce its citizens’ meat consumption by 50 percent in an effort to reduce climate change. The new guidelines recommend that people should consume an average of 40 to 75 grams of meat a day, or less than three ounces total.
Meat has only been regularly consumed in China since about the 1980s; before then, it was quite scarce and was more of a rare treat than an everyday indulgence.
5. Canada recognizes veganism as an ideology.
In 2011, the Human Rights Commission of Ontario decided that veganism was a creed with similar discrimination protection rights as religions and other belief systems. These rights mean that not only are hospitals and schools required to offer vegan meals upon request, but schools cannot obligate students to dissect animals.
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