The war against meat rages on, with carnivores having to defend themselves on three (sometimes overlapping) fronts (even if we ignore the currently sharp rise in meat prices). Firstly, there are those who contend that meat is just not very good for you, including Eric Adams, New York City’s new mayor, who was said to be a vegan, but now turns out to have a weakness for fish.
For much of his recent public life, Mayor Eric Adams has loudly proclaimed that he loves salads, beets, lentils and green smoothies and that transforming his diet has changed his life.
But on Monday, Mr. Adams, New York City’s first purported vegan mayor, was confronted with several accounts of his dining on fish in public — and acknowledged that he was “imperfect” and had not always stuck to a strictly vegan diet.
Instead, he said he did his best to follow a plant-based approach.
“Here’s my message — the more plant-based meals you have, the healthier you’re going to be,” Mr. Adams told reporters at an event announcing a program to help New Yorkers with chronic illness improve their diets.
“Don’t worry about what’s on Mayor Adams’s plate,” he said. “Put these items on your plate.”
But as we have been frequently reminded during the pandemic, what is voluntary for those in charge is often not so voluntary for everyone else.
Mayor Eric Adams made headlines on Thursday when he announced that New York City schools would be required to serve completely vegan lunches on Fridays, effective the following day. The mandate is off to a rocky start in the nation’s largest school system.
New Yorkers took to Twitter on Friday morning, sharing images of school lunches that left something to be desired: dry black bean tacos, bags of chips, sad-looking stir fries, and other meals that city officials claim to be nutrient-packed. Several users on the social media platform say their children were dished up food that wasn’t actually vegan, like lasagna and bean and cheese burritos . . .
Grim (click on the link), but coming from a faux vegan mayor, faux vegan menus are a nice touch.
But the supposedly health-giving properties of a vegan diet are not the only reason for this shift.
Adams is New York City’s first vegan mayor. Earlier in the week, he noted the production of beef, beef products and dairy milk is environmentally unfriendly. Adams said he wants changing school lunch menus can help the climate.
The climate! Of course. Those who argue that some strains of environmentalism are more akin to a religion than to #science will note that dietary restrictions are common to many religions, and they will draw their own conclusions. They will not be wrong to do so.
And then, of course, there are those who reject meat-eating on the basis that it is wrong to chomp on what once was a living being, a category, incidentally, that includes insects, which risks opening up a split between some climate warriors (who are keen on insect chow) and the defenders of vegetarian/vegan purity.
Our age is an age of compulsion. We can expect that the pressure to ‘encourage’ us away from meat (and, indeed, dairy) will expand beyond essentially captive diners. In time, I’d expect climate-related taxation and regulation to result in a more sustained increase in meat prices than the current spike, adding just a bit more to the greenflationary spiral.
But, in the meantime, there are ideas such as this.
[A] new working paper from the World Resources Institute, a Washington-based nonprofit, suggests that in the short term there might be an easier way to modify behavior and reduce meat consumption [than lab-grown or plant] meat, : a simple prompt on a menu…
WRI asked 6,000 U.S.-based, meat-eating study participants to pick between entrees in a simulated online ordering scenario. Most participants received one of 10 prompts. These nudged them to eat more plants or less meat, emphasizing various benefits such as improved health and a more sustainable planet. In a subsequent phase of the trial, the 10 prompts were winnowed down to five.
The most successful prompt resulted in twice as many plant-based menu orders as the unprompted control group’s: 25% as opposed to 12%. It read:
“Each of us can make a positive difference to the planet. Swapping just one meat dish for a plant-based one saves greenhouse gas emissions that are equivalent to the energy used to charge your phone for two years. Your small change can make a big difference.”
The suggestive power comes from two parts of the prompt, according to Edwina Hughes, head of the Cool Food Pledge at WRI, who will seek to put the findings into action. First, she said, “we know complying with social norms can be a powerful motivator.” Social research has already demonstrated that well-timed, polite reminders of socially responsible behavior can meaningfully reduce everything from energy use to littering to towel use in hotels.
Part two, she said, was giving readers “a personal outcome they could relate to by making it an equivalent in their life. People do understand the idea of charging a phone.”…
In the study, researchers also found that it helps to describe vegetables with evocative, appetite-provoking language usually reserved for meat, such as “slow roasted.” Menu readers responded to words that emphasize flavor in vegetarian options, like “caramelized” and “richly spiced.”
We’re talking vegetables here — vegetables — I’m unconvinced that putting lipstick on a parsnip is really going to do the trick.