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Giving up meat in Germany? A discussion about vegetarianism

A growing number of Germans are considering becoming vegetarian for a range of different reasons. However, there is opposition to this trend too, especially with regard to government initiatives designed to promote it.

Germany is famed for its hearty meat dishes such as Eisbein and Rinderbraten. However, a recent change can be observed whereby an increasing number of Germans are considering becoming vegetarian and are either foregoing meat entirely or cutting down on it. People are experimenting at home with new dishes prepared using fruit, vegetables and plant-based meat substitutes, and every restaurant has vegetarian options on the menu.

Different reasons for turning to vegetarianism

People may opt to cut down on the amount of meat they eat for a variety of reasons. Repeated media reports of rotten meat scandals over the last few years have led many Germans to eat less meat as a health precaution. Reports on animals being kept in appalling conditions have also been a factor in consumers increasingly turning to vegetarian foods. Additionally, environmental conservation and sustainability are two important arguments for carefully considering the amount of meat we eat. Meat production does serious damage to the environment and is ineffective and expensive compared to the production of vegetarian items.

You don't have to give up meat entirely

Some 42 million Germans refrain from eating meat at least once in a while and increasingly cook vegetarian dishes. Cookbooks, blogs and forums on vegetarian and vegan cuisine are now widely read in Germany. Tasty and varied dishes made with plant-based ingredients are being served up increasingly frequently at the meal table, even by those not wanting to give up meat entirely. Over six million people in Germany follow a strictly vegetarian diet, which excludes all meat, poultry and fish. There are many different types of vegetarian diet, with varying levels of restriction (for more information, please see the side box).

Veggie Day: Paternalism versus free choice to give up meat

One idea that provoked a great deal of public discussion in Germany at the beginning of 2013 was Veggie Day, a proposal for all canteens, restaurants, schools and kindergartens to cut meat from their menus on one day each week. The country's Green Party thought that this was such a sensible idea that they included it in their general election manifesto. However, there were also many people who considered the proposal to be one step too far and who didn't want to be dictated to from above as to what they could or couldn't eat.

A divide is emerging between those who don't want others telling them what and what not to eat, and those who voluntarily restrict what they eat for ideological or political reasons and expect others to follow suit. Essentially, however, most Germans agree that limiting their meat consumption to a certain extent and eating at least some non-meat dishes are good for their health, for animals and for the environment.

The main types of vegetarian

  • Flexitarian: very occasionally eats meat, fish and poultry
  • Pescetarian: eats fish, but no meat or poultry
  • Ovo-lacto vegetarian: consumes eggs and dairy products, but no meat, fish or poultry
  • Lacto vegetarian: consumes dairy products, but no meat, poultry or eggs
  • Vegan: doesn't consume any animal products, including honey, or use leather products 
  • Fruitarian: only consumes plant-based products

February 2014

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Maria Ormeno
20 April 2014

I from Chile and I think the veggie day will be receive good. Chilean people eat a lot of vegetals and fruits, legums, and meat is too expensive, so many persons eat meat few times a week. I eat 2 or 3 times per week, the rest of the week I eat different meals without meat.

14 February 2014

I remembered the University days where mensa used to provide us good veggi options. The Local Restaurants too had veggie options, except some fast foods like McDonald Burger King. In India its common that people prefer to have Meat only one day per week but now with increasing purchasing power some percentage of people are eating Meat every day. The option of having a Veggi day can be justified in the interest of health of the Nation. Because as per my observation the kids in Germany are more interests in fast food chain restaurants rather than traditional restaurants, so by keeping a Veggi day we can make them taste the Veggi and we never know they may like and create more demand for Veggi soon. This will help the health condition of the Nation.

Kristaq Markollari
12 February 2014

Veggie Day?? Meat Day??
The way the people eat is some how part of their identity. You can not make the Chinese eat Indian food or american hamburgers.
Why don't let all the restaurants try veggie food in their menus and see if there is any interest of the clients for it.

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