Danish politicians take up vegan challenge

Parliamentarians in the Scandinavian country have enjoyed a healthier three weeks to help tackle climate change

Copenhagen market scene

© iStock.com/AsianDream

Politicians in Denmark have been eating their way towards a better world by taking up a new dietary challenge that’s sweeping the country: VeganerUdfordringen – eating vegan for 22 days.

Members of two different parties – the Alternative (Green party) and the socialist Red-Green Alliance – ate no meat or animal products for just over three weeks, beginning on May 1. They are just some of the 1,500+ people who have volunteered to give vegan eating a try since the challenge launched in April. More people are asked to sign up at the start of every month to adopt a healthier and greener diet.

“It’s nothing less than a world sensation to see two parties sitting in the Danish parliament take political leadership to a whole new level. I hope that this progressive move will inspire more political leaders to put green action behind their words,” said Simon Hansen, VeganerUdfordringen’s project manager.

Speaking before beginning the challenge, Uffe Elbaek, leader of the Alternative, said she didn’t doubt it would be a huge challenge, “but I expect it to be quite a lot of fun as well, and it’ll definitely be to the benefit of the environment. Western food production has an enormous climate footprint. Political action is needed, and I find it important that we, as politicians, take the first steps and begin to ‘walk the talk’.”

Maria Gjerding, environment secretary of the socialist Red-Green Alliance, said that while going vegan for a short period would not save the world, “it’s a great opportunity to put focus on Western consumption of animal products and the environmental and animal welfare problems it causes. We need to take action on both a personal and political level in order to address the serious issues of climate change.”

Denmark is one of the leading lights in Europe in terms of moving towards a healthier diet. Last year the country’s Council of Ethics recommended that the Danish government introduce a climate tax on beef to ensure it was priced according to its environmental cost. The Danish company Novo Nordisk is also considering introducing a Meat Free Monday, thanks to the efforts of two employees.

Different countries have their own takes on VeganerUdfordringen, such as Israel’s Challenge 22+ and Veganuary here in the UK. In the US, Beyoncé took a 22-day break from animal products in 2013, a regime devised by her trainer, Marco Borges, based on the theory that it takes three weeks to kick a habit. He and the singer have recently launched a 22-day vegan meal delivery service.

Hansen says interest in the challenge has been “overwhelming. We had a target of 400 participants, but after a few days we got up to the triple. It shows that the Danes would like to cut meat consumption and find green alternatives.”

The VeganerUdfordringen website features recipes and tips, as well as advice from vegan coaches. The next round begins on June 1, so why not put your name down and give it a whirl?