It seems that international officialdom is going mad for eating with people and planet in mind. Following hot on the heels of government departments in Germany and Japan, Portugal is now enjoying its moment in the meat free spotlight, having approved a law that will require a vegan option to be served in all public canteens.
Portugal’s parliament voted last month in favour of a draft law that stipulated the country’s publicly funded eating areas – in schools, universities, hospitals, prisons and other public buildings – must offer at least one meal free from all animal products. It is expected to go onto the statute books in a couple of months’ time.
Animal rights party PAN proposed the law, inspired by a petition organised by the Portuguese Vegetarian Society that garnered 15,000 signatures, which was passed by a large majority. PAN’s sole member of parliament, André Silva, observed that the measure would not be a burden on the public purse as meat free meals tend to be cheaper to make than those containing meat. To which MFM can helpfully add: they are also tastier, more nutritious and easier on the environment – things that ought to mitigate against the unhelpful clause in the law that allows canteens to remove the veggie option if demand is too low.
That seems unlikely, if the success of similar initiatives elsewhere in the world is anything to go by. In March, Germany’s environment ministry decided to ban all meat products from official functions, while at the beginning of April, after a very popular trial run, Japan’s Cabinet Office and Cabinet Secretariat made a regular meat free menu a staple of their office canteen.
Nuno Alvim of the Portuguese Vegetarian Society said it was a “major breakthrough”, adding: “It’s the first time we have any law that specifically mentions vegetarianism. It will promote diversity of eating habits and encourage more people to choose the veggie option as it becomes more widely available. This is predicted to have a significant impact on the population health foremost, but also on animals and the environment in the long run.”
MFM’s sister organisation in Portugal, Movimento 2as Sem Carne, also played a key role in making it happen. Announcing the good news online following confirmation that the law had been passed, they wrote: “We just did it! With the help of PAN we saw approved something we [have] wanted for so long. We are very happy and [will collaborate] to help the government [in] inserting this new option in every public canteen.”