This week, the City Council of Berkeley passed a resolution to slash the amount of animal products the city purchases by 50 percent by 2024, with progress on the goal to be reported to the Council by the City Manager by January 31, 2022. Further, the resolution adopts a long-term goal of phasing out all purchases of animal products and replacing them with plant-based foods. The feasibility and timeline of the later goal will be reported by the City Manager to Council by June 30, 2022. The resolution will result in more plant-forward meals at city-supplied places such as summer camps, senior centers, and the Berkeley City Jail.
“Berkeley has been a leader in addressing climate change, passing and implementing numerous measures that reduce our greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and improve the environmental quality of our community, region, and world. One critically important sector that accounts for about 25% of global GHG emissions and significant emissions here in Berkeley is our food,” the resolution states. “It is clear that the world cannot meet global GHG reduction targets without significantly curbing consumption of animal products. High-meat-eating nations like the United States, which consumes 2.6 times more meat than the global per capita average, must help shoulder this responsibility.”
The resolution was authored by Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguín and Councilmember Sophie Hahn, and was the result of advocacy by a coalition of animal-rights groups, including Direct Action Everywhere (DxE), Extinction Rebellion Oakland, The Animal Save Movement, East Bay Animal PAC, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, and The Suitcase Clinic.
“This is a very important step for the city to take as part of our broader climate efforts, as well as building on our long tradition promoting the humane treatment of animals here in the city of Berkeley,” Mayor Arreguín said.
Berkeley: a city with a history of vegan initiatives
In 2018, Berkeley counted another first when it became the first city to adopt “Vegan Monday,” a step beyond the popular Meatless Monday initiative where residents are encouraged to remove all animal products from their plates every Monday. The “Green Monday” resolution—introduced by City Council members Kate Harrison, Cheryl Davila, and Hahn—is an effort to further address the city’s plan to combat climate change and to become carbon neutral by 2030. To set an example, the City Council itself now only serves vegan food at its meetings.
The city is also an early pioneer in implementing recycling programs, divesting from fossil fuels, and other environmentally friendly initiatives. When it comes to resolutions that benefit animals more directly, Berkeley has been taking action, as well. Prior to California becoming the first state to pass a ban on fur sales in 2019, Berkeley became the second city—following West Hollywood’s 2013 ban—to prohibit fur sales within city limits in 2017.
The aim of getting this new resolution on the books in Berkeley is both for the purpose of establishing a route to fighting the climate crisis by divesting from animal agriculture and also to set a precedent for other cities to make similar changes. The animal-rights activists who fought to get this resolution passed in Berkeley are now expanding their efforts to encourage San Francisco (which already passed a partial resolution to divest from animal agriculture last year), Chicago, and other cities to make similar commitments.
“The public is rising up and taking action against the destructiveness of animal agriculture,” Almira Tanner, Berkeley resident and DxE Lead Organizer, said. “We’re hopeful this historic step can spur a wave of legislation to protect all life on Earth while we still have time.”
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