Barbara Hendricks, Germany’s environment minister, announced that her ministry would no longer be serving meat, fish or meat-derived products at official functions. Hendricks said her ministry must serve as a “role model” on environmental and sustainability issues.
“We want to set a good example for climate protection because vegetarian food is more climate-friendly than meat and fish,” the ministry said in a statement this week, according to The Daily Telegraph. The ban reportedly took effect at the end of January.
The ministry mandate also states that meals served at official functions should be organically sourced, with a preference for seasonal, local and fair-trade products, reported German newspaper Bild. Ingredients should only be transported a short distance, the mandate said.
Research is divided on the issue of vegetarianism’s environmental benefits. Some studies suggest the climate impact of certain fruits and vegetables may be as great as some meat products. Still, the evidence in favor of a reduced-meat diet — specifically with less beef and some kinds of seafood — remains compelling from a sustainability perspective.
Animal agriculture has been linked to climate change, fisheries depletion, species extinction, deforestation, soil degradation and other environmental impacts. Livestock production alone accounts for almost 20 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. That’s more than the emissions from the entire transportation sector, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization.
A 2015 study suggested that meat eaters may be the top cause of worldwide species extinction, due to livestock production’s detrimental land impacts. Animal agriculture is also the world’s leading consumer of freshwater, requiring an average of 55 trillion gallons annually, according to a 2015 report in the Stanford Environmental Law Journal.
Beef, in particular, has been pinpointed as particularly costly to the environment. According to Global Footprint Network, it takes 14 times as much biologically productive land to produce 1 ton of beef as it takes to produce 1 ton of grain.
Some types of seafood also are environmentally problematic. According to the U.N., about 75 percent of the world’s fisheries are either exploited or depleted from overfishing. Greenhouse gas emissions associated with fresh and frozen shellfish production are the highest per calorie, compared with other common foods, Carnegie Mellon University researchers found in a 2015 study.
Despite Germany is famed for bratwursts and other meat dishes, vegetarianism is reportedly on the rise. According to the nonprofit European Vegetarian Union, almost 10 percent of Germany’s population chooses to go meatless, making it one of the most vegetarian countries in Europe.