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All steaks to be rare in Ghent, starting today

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Shanta Barley | 14:24 UK time, Thursday, 14 May 2009

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The Guardian reports that the Belgian city of Ghent is turning vegetarian once a week to save the planet, despite the fact critics say that a diet high in fruit, veggies and dairy isn't a sure-fire solution to climate change.

In an awesome display of the power of political intervention (which some say is vital if we are to tackle climate change promptly) all menus in one of Belgium's largest cities will henceforth sport at least one veggie option on Thursdays, while some 'meateries' will become fully vegetarian for the day.

But will Ghent's strict diet of greens tackle global warming, as the Flanders' Ethical Vegetarian Association claims so unequivocally?

The hard-to-swallow truth is this: a vegetarian diet can actually have a bigger climate impact than a diet of chicken burgers and lamb chops. Greens, simply put, aren't always that green. Particularly when they are grown out-of-season in energy-hungry greenhouses or flown to market in airplanes with typically sky-high emissions.

And as for the 'organic wholegrain bread' and 'soya fritters' beatified by the Guardian article, organic farming may benefit biodiversity, but it's not necessarily less greenhouse gas-intensive. And soya fritters are no planetary panacea either: soya farming is one of the main causes of tropical deforestation, which currently produces a fifth of global carbon dioxide emissions.

Either way, the good-natured citizens of Ghent appear to be taking the shift in dietary regime in their stride. But then, this city - which used to employ a diet of blessed donut-shaped buns called 'Saint Hubert bread' to fend off rabies - has a history of tactically deploying food.

Follow up: Treehugger: Ghent Goes Veggie on Thursdays

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