Helsinki to cut meat consumption in half by 2025

Finnish capital votes in measure in a bid to improve environment

Helsinki, Finland, cityscape with Helsinki Cathedral in winter

Residents of Helsinki can look forward to an increasingly healthy and environmentally friendly future thanks to a new measure to cut the city’s intake of animal products.

Earlier this month, Helsinki’s council narrowly voted to cut consumption of meat and dairy in Finland’s capital by 50 per cent over the next six years. The Greens proposed the deal, with support from other left-leaning parties, and it was passed by 42 votes to 39.

Pointing out that Finns’ consumption of animal products is among the highest in the EU, councillor Atte Harjanne of the Green party, who sponsored the proposal, said: “In the face of climate change and biodiversity loss, it’s clear that we need a major reduction in meat use globally.” To counter the unwittingly amusing criticisms of right-wing opponents, some of whom branded the measure “uncompromising Communism … designed to [bring] misery and make people angry”, he added: “We’re not forcing people to quit, just reduce.”

Harjanne, a scientist at the Finnish Meteorological Institute who is hoping to be elected an MP in the country’s general election in April, made clear that the move would have repercussions far beyond the capital: “This doesn’t change everything. It doesn’t transform what the city is. But it’s a major step. It’s a great signal also for the food product industry that they have to cater for this kind of demand,”

The next step is implementing the city-wide shift in diet. Helsinki’s schoolchildren have had access to vegetarian meals since 2007, and have been fortunate to have enjoyed a weekly meat free day since 2010, so it’s likely the next places to feel this change for the better will be council-run restaurants, state offices, hospitals and social services. Already cities such as Gouda in the Netherlands, and Berkeley, California, have pledged to make food greener, healthier and cheaper at the start of the week.

Finland has in the past proved itself willing and able to change the way it eats. Last year the Finnish army announced it would be serving soldiers at least two meat free meals a week, while in 2017, the country was the first in the world to try McDonald’s groundbreaking McVegan burger.

And research has shown that Helsinki is receptive to eating with the planet in mind. In 2015, a number of the city’s restaurants gave their patrons the chance to enjoy “Climate Choice” meals whose carbon cost was clearly set out, and found Finnish diners are happy to choose their food based on its environmental credentials.