‘Immensely powerful’: Activists laud city decision to commit to plant-based food

photo of Direct Action Everywhere protestors
Direct Action Everywhere/Courtesy
Berkeley City Council has passed multiple resolutions in recent years in an effort to strive for increased sustainability regarding food policies. The most recent of these resolutions, passed July 27, pledges to allocate half of current city spending on animal-based products to plant-based alternatives by 2024.

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Former Berkeley City Councilmember Max Anderson passed a resolution February 2015 declaring all Mondays in the city as “Meatless Mondays” in support of sustainability efforts.

In the years since, various council members have passed resolutions encouraging plant-based diets and promoting sustainable food purchasing policies. At its July 27 meeting, City Council voted to pass a resolution to shift half of current expenditures regarding animal-based foods to plant-based sources by 2024 and to commit to a long-term goal of fully phasing out animal products.

As part of the resolution, authored by Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguín and Councilmember Sophie Hahn, the council will review plans to achieve 100% plant-based food sources by June 30, 2022. According to Direct Action Everywhere lead organizer Almira Tanner, the resolution is a product of a constant “back-and-forth”* between animal rights activists and the council that had gone on for more than a year.

“This is something we all agree on,” Tanner said in an email. “Try not to hurt others, and try to help them instead. Today’s resolution is a powerful statement affirming the inner voice of decent people of conscience.”

Tanner added that the network began calling for change through public comment and letters written to City Council regarding the “destructive nature” of animal agriculture. The industry has been a leading contributor to climate change, and multiple workers and animals in the system are exploited regularly, Tanner alleged.

After initial conversations with City Council did not yield results, according to Tanner, the organization escalated its efforts to protests to encourage the council to take action. During the July 20 City Council meeting, members of Direct Action Everywhere held a “Sleepover Protest” outside Arreguín’s home in response to the city’s plans to address climate issues and animal product use.

“Streamlining the City of Berkeley’s transition to plant-forward and plant-based meals advances the City’s Strategic Plan Priority of being a global leader in addressing climate change, advancing environmental justice, and protecting the environment and supports the Climate Action Plan goal that a majority of food consumed in Berkeley be produced locally,” the resolution reads.

By serving less meat and prioritizing plant-based meals, the city can reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve public health, the resolution added. During the July 27 council meeting, Arreguín said the measure was a crucial step in continuing the city’s climate efforts and “long tradition promoting the humane treatment of animals.”

While Tanner emphasized the importance of the resolution, particularly in sending a message to other cities across the state and nation, she noted that there was still significant work to be done. Tanner added that the council’s vote sent a signal in a “practical sense and a symbolic sense,” drawing comparisons to City Council’s approval of a ban on local fur sales in 2017.

“This industry is immensely powerful, but it’s no match for ordinary, passionate people who come together to take collective action,” Tanner said in the email. “This is only the beginning.”

 

Aditya Katewa is the executive news editor. Contact him at [email protected], and follow him on Twitter at @adkatewa1.