VHS recently launched a new report, “Increasing Plant-Based Purchasing at the Municipal Level”, which examines food purchasing for the City of Vancouver. The report reviews the impact of a shift in municipal food purchasing that reduces the volume of animal-based foods by 20%, to be replaced with plant-based alternatives.
It concludes that by replacing 20% of animal-based food products with plant-based alternatives, the City of Vancouver could expect to:
save up to $99,000
reduce greenhouse gas emissions by more than 500 tonnes
save the equivalent of nearly 400 farmed animal lives on annual basis
VHS is distributing this report amongst municipal decision-makers at the City of Vancouver and will be highlighting opportunities for its implementation.
The Vancouver Park Board is currently seeking public input through an online survey, closing January 28, on an updated “Local Food Action Plan”. The new 5-year plan will outline how the Park Board’s programming and services, which include community gardens; kitchens; food workshops; meal programs; farmers markets; concessions and restaurants, will contribute to a just and sustainable local food system.
This new plan comes at a crucial time, as society continues to deal with the COVID-19 public health pandemic and as concerns surrounding our food system continue to grow. COVID-19 has highlighted and exacerbated existing inequities within the food system. It has drawn attention to the dangerous and cruel nature of factory farms and the risks they pose as potential contributors to future pandemics; the exploitative conditions facing workers and animals on farms, in slaughterhouses and food processing plants; the connection between unsustainable, industrial food production and climate change; and the issue of food insecurity for historically underserved communities.
A growing body of research concludes that a significant shift in diets and food production toward fewer animal products and more plant-based foods is necessary. These changes are needed in order to meet our climate goals, tackle the biodiversity and factory farming crises, and to sustainably feed a growing population a healthy diet.
Food system experts are increasingly calling on all levels of government, including municipalities, to support these much-needed dietary and food system changes through food-related policies, practices and programming. The Park Board’s new Local Food Action Plan is a key opportunity for doing just that. Incorporating and prioritizing more plant-based foods, meals and education in Park Board services, such as meal programs, workshops, events and at concessions and restaurants, will help to support much-needed dietary and food system change. It will also improve public access to healthy, humane and sustainable food options.
If you’re a Vancouver resident, please consider participating in the Local Food Action Plan survey before the January 28th deadline. You’re welcome to use the recommendations we’ve listed below to guide responses about opportunities for the Park Board moving forward, but please be sure to fill out the survey in your own words and based on your own experiences.
Animal welfare & a “just and sustainable food system” – A truly “just and sustainable local food system” will incorporate not only the protection of people, the planet and public health, but also our social responsibility for the protection of animal welfare. Therefore, a shift toward improving public access to healthy, humane, sustainable and equitable plant-based foods and diets must be reflected in the new Local Food Action Plan.
The role of municipalities – Food system experts are calling on governments, including municipalities, to take action to support dietary and food system change that prioritizes a shift to plant-based in their plans and policies.
Improving plant-based access& education – The Local Food Action plan is an opportunity to improve public access to plant-based foods and diets, as well as plant-based education, through Park Board services such as meal programs, fieldhouse workshops, events, farmers markets, concessions and restaurants.
Expanding resources to under-served communities – The Local Food Action Plan should assess and address gaps in programs and services for under-served communities. This is another area where plant-based food access and education can also be enhanced.
Emergency planning & preparedness – COVID-19 has highlighted the importance of ensuring food security programming is maintained during emergency situations and is adaptable so as to ensure communities are able to continue accessing resources.
Do you want to make sure no animals were harmed when you’re shopping or eating? Struggling to find the perfect gift for someone? Looking to support and order from a local restaurant? This list of plant-based businesses in Vancouver & the Lower Mainland has you covered.
Click on a section in the table of contents to be directed to a list of relevant plant-based businesses in Vancouver and the surrounding area (with a few clothing retailers from elsewhere in Canada.)
Have your say before government consultation ends December 3rd
Canada’s plant-based food sector is booming but proposed government regulations may hamper the industry’s growth.
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) has launched a consultation on new, proposed guidelines for the labelling of “simulated” meat products and certain plant-based protein foods.
The guidelines require non-meat foods formulated to resemble and substitute for meat products to have the same nutritional components as the animal-based products. Such non-meat products must meet a meet minimum protein content, fat content and vitamin/mineral requirements of the meat product it is intended to substitute.
Yet, there is no need for meat substitutes to have the same nutritional profiles as meat products, as long as nutritional information is on the label. Consumers can compare products based on their individual and unique nutritional profiles, judging for themselves whether a product contains the levels of protein and other nutrients they are seeking. Making it mandatory for plant-based food companies to meet these requirements could unnecessarily increase costs, reducing production and investment incentives in the industry.
The guidelines also require that the word “simulated” appear on the labels of these products and be “shown in letters of at least the same size and prominence as those used in the remainder of the common name.” So, for example, a plant-based substitute for meatballs would need to say “simulated meatballs” on the label.
These requirements are also unnecessary, as consumers would understand labelling that uses terms such as “contains no meat” or “meatless” more easily than “simulated” (which also suggests it is an inferior product). A product that is labelled “meatless steak” would cause no confusion for consumers and does not need to be described as “simulated.”
The proposed guidelines also introduce a new category of non-meat product, described as “other products which do not substitute for meat or poultry” and which “are not aiming to be like a meat product.” These include products such as veggie burgers, tofu burgers, Portobello mushroom burgers, lentil loaf, and soy patties. They would not be required to have “simulated” on the label or have a nutritional profile similar to a meat product, as long as they are not being represented as substitutes for meat or poultry.
VHS is urging Canadian consumers to take part in the CFIA’s consultation, which finishes December 3rd, and let the agency know that these regulations could be burden on Canada’s growing plant-based food industry. The consultation includes a survey that give consumers an opportunity to comment on the guidelines and make these points:
1) Plant-based burgers, sausages, etc. should NOT be subject to fortification and compositional requirements so that they are nutritionally similar to meat or poultry products. As long as nutritional information is provided on the label, consumers can decide if the product meets their dietary needs.
2) It is NOT challenging to distinguish meat and poultry products from products that are not made of meat or poultry. The term “simulated” may actually further confuse people.
VHS believes Canadian consumers are not confused by plant-based products that are presented as meat substitutes, as long as the labelling indicates there is no meat in the product and provides a list of ingredients along with nutritional information. Our view is: Let the consumer decide.
New Vancouver Humane Society ad campaign promotes kindness to all animals
Media release July 23, 2020
Vancouver – A striking new billboard in downtown Vancouver is encouraging Vancouverites to treat farmed animals with the same compassion as other animals by transitioning to a plant-based diet. The billboard is part of The Vancouver Humane Society’s (VHS) new Go Veg campaign.
The billboard, which shows the faces of a cow and a dog with near-identical markings, states: “Animals are the same in all the ways that matter” and urges people to “Be kind to every kind.”
“Farmed animals are thinking, feeling beings, with complex emotional lives – just like the pets we open our homes and hearts to,” said VHS campaign director Emily Pickett. “They suffer greatly under today’s industrial animal agriculture system. Our Go Veg billboard calls on society to recognize that animals, regardless of the label they are given – farmed or companion – are the same in all the ways that matter.”
Pickett said that, in 2019, more than 830 million land animals were raised and slaughtered for food in Canada. “Our overconsumption of animal products has led to the rise of the industrial animal agriculture system, characterized by large numbers of animals confined in cramped, barren and unnatural environments and subject to painful procedures, lengthy transport journeys and frightening slaughter conditions.”
The billboard ad will run in select locations in Vancouver throughout the summer. In addition, VHS is running ads in 24 Vancouver condo buildings, also promoting a plant-based diet.
The Vancouver Humane Society (VHS) is joining other animal protection, environmental and food advocacy groups in calling on the federal government to direct any financial aid for Canada’s agriculture system toward transitioning to a safe, equitable and sustainable plant-based food system that improves food security, protects animal welfare, public health, worker safety and the environment on which we all depend.
The joint letterhighlights that the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed serious problems with Canada’s food system and supply chains, particularly in the meat industry. Industrial livestock operations are a leading source of greenhouse gas emissions and environmental degradation and are characterized by the confinement of large numbers of genetically-similar animals in unnatural and unhealthy environments. These conditions significantly compromise their welfare and could lead to the rise of new zoonotic diseases that threaten public health.
Meanwhile, the consolidation of the meat industry into the hands of a few multi-billion dollar corporations makes supply chains vulnerable to unexpected disruptions. For example, the pandemic has prompted some pig farmers in Canada to cull animals in response to reduced processing capacity at slaughterhouses, after they were forced to suspend or slow operations following COVID-19 outbreaks among workers. A large number of COVID-19 cases have been linked to slaughterhouses and employees have spoken out about the lack of protection for workers and the dangerous, fast-paced, and unhealthy environments.
The joint letter encourages the federal Minister of Finance and Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food to dedicate any emergency funding for the agricultural sector, as well as any future funding, on phasing out industrial livestock operations and assisting farmers in transitioning toward a sustainable, ethical and equitable plant-based food system. COVID-19 is an unprecedented wake-up call and policy-makers must take action to ensure that we emerge from this crisis with a more resilient food system that is respectful of the inter-connectedness of human, environmental, and animal health.
While COVID-19 has put a temporary hold on our work with schools to put more plant-based options on cafeteria menus, we’re continuing to speak out and work behind the scenes to support food system change that will benefit animals, the planet and public health.
We’re excited to share a sneak peek of our brand new Go Veg ads, which build on our popular “Food vs. Friend” bus ad campaign that we’ve run the last few years. The ads will touch on the benefits of a plant-based diet and will be running online and in public spaces (see billboard above) throughout Metro Vancouver in the coming months.
VHS also participated in the City of Vancouver’s Climate Emergency survey and advocated for climate actions that include transitioning public menus toward fewer animal products and more plant-based options. The consumption of food makes up nearly half of the City of Vancouver’s ecological footprint and animal products have a larger environmental impact than plant-based foods, making this an opportunity to change the food system to help protect both animals and the planet.
VHS executive director, Amy Morris and projects and communications Director, Peter Fricker also recorded a podcast in which they discuss local plant-based foods and food sustainability. You can hear their discussion here.
What plant-based foods are produced in Canada? Do you have to farm animals to produce enough food for Canadians? Would our economy fail if we stopped slaughtering animals? What’s the deal with vegan junk food? Learn about all of this and more by listening to our interview with VHS’ Projects and Communications Director, Peter Fricker.
On June 24, we are hosting an online presentation with Dr. Lisa Kramer, a behavioural economist at the University of Toronto, entitled Is the Future of Meat Plant-Based?. It is a free presentation and Dr. Kramer will be answering questions live! We have scheduled it for 12pm and 7pm to accommodate for different schedules.
Are politicians getting behind the plant-based food revolution? Despite some promising actions, governments and political parties are lagging behind public and business interest in the shift away from an animal-based diet.
It was a welcome surprise when Health Canada, for the first time, ensured the meat and dairy industry’s lobbyists did not interfere in the creation of the new Canada Food Guide. The result was an evidence-based guide that focuses more on a plant-based diet at the expense of one centred on meat and dairy products.
Also welcome, but less well-known, is the federal government’s support for the emerging plant-based protein industry in Western Canada. Ottawa is contributing $150 million to create a plant protein “supercluster” in the Prairie provinces, aiming to take advantage of Canada’s pulse crops (lentils, beans, peas) and their potential use in products such as meat alternatives. The initiative, focusing on value-added processing, is expected to create an estimated 4,700 jobs over the next 10 years and $700 million in new commercial activity.
Such developments make sense, as study after study provides sound evidence that a food system based on the overconsumption of cheap meat is environmentally unsustainable, unhealthy and, in terms of animal welfare, unethical. Most recently, a report by respected U.K. think-tank Chatham House, called on the European Union to invest in meat alternatives because “a radical shift away from excessive meat-eating patterns is urgently needed to tackle the un-sustainability of the livestock sector.” The United Nations Environment Agency has said “meat production is known to be a major contributor to climate change and environmental destruction…” and last year honoured two plant-based meat companies with its Champions of the Earth award.
Yet Canadian taxpayers’ support for the meat and dairy sectors is massive and dwarves public funding for the budding plant-based food industry. The recently tabled federal budget promised $3.9 billion to the egg, poultry, and dairy industries as compensation for trade concessions. Last year, the federal government announced $250 million for the dairy industry to “increase productivity and competitiveness.” How many established Canadian businesses enjoy such support?
Here in B.C., the provincial government recently committed $450,000 toward the development of a slaughterhouse in Prince George. Similar grants are routinely doled out to the meat industry across Canada. In 2017, the federal and Manitoba governments gave $500,000 to Maple Leaf Foods to increase bacon production – the same year the company had net earnings of $164.1 million. In 2015, the World Health Organization declared processed meats carcinogenic to humans.
The provincial government’s Clean B.C. initiative makes no mention of reducing meat consumption. Yet a major Oxford University study last year found that avoiding meat and dairy products is the single biggest way to reduce your environmental impact on the planet.
Even the Green Party of B.C. has not addressed the negative environmental impacts of the meat and livestock industries in its policy platform. In the U.K., the Green Party has pledged “to support a progressive change from diets dominated by meat, dairy and other animal products to healthier diets based mainly on plant foods…”
Local government in the province has also done little to address the issue. Several Metro Vancouver municipalities have made “Meatless Monday” proclamations but none actively promote healthy, low-carbon, plant-based diets. A number of Lower Mainland schools have individually partnered with the Vancouver Humane Society to establish Meatless Monday initiatives but no school boards have yet to make it district policy. Compare this to New York, which recently announced ALL public schools in the city will introduce Meatless Monday programs.
It’s understandable that politicians may be timid about recommending plant-based diets or calling for lower meat consumption. American congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, while promoting her Green New Deal, recently suggested, “Maybe we shouldn’t be eating a hamburger for breakfast, lunch and dinner” and was accused by her political opponents of coming to take Americans’ hamburgers away.
But Ocasio-Cortez has not backed down. Instead, she has patiently explained why reducing meat consumption will benefit our environment and our health. Canadian leaders at all levels of government need to show the same vision and boldness. The evidence for change is there. All that’s missing is the political courage.
The Chickpea food truck has been a big hit with Vancouverites, who have been lining up for its Mediterranean-inspired vegetarian food since it opened for business in 2016. Now, owners Rotem Tal and Itamar Shani have opened a restaurant on on Main Street that’s attracting diners with its popular plant-based comfort food. VHS asked Rotem and Tal about their new venture and about their thoughts on plant-based dining in Vancouver.
The Chickpea food truck has obviously been popular and successful. What made you decide to open a restaurant?
Having a brick and mortar shop was always our dream. We decided to start with a food truck so we could try out our recipes and gauge the public’s response. We were blown away and really excited by the immediate positive reactions to our food and the Chickpea culture. So moving to a restaurant happened sooner than expected.
You recently announced on your website that the restaurant had “gone vegan” and removed all eggs from the menu. What prompted the change?
We both grew up in households where meat was a main ingredient. Individually, through our own personal experiences we each became vegetarian, however. As our business began to grow, so did our research into ethical and sustainable practices. Months ago we removed dairy from our truck’s menu, so it seemed only natural to remove all animal products and by-products from Chickpea before opening the restaurant. We care very much about how our business impacts our community and the world as a whole.
You describe Chickpea’s cuisine as “delicious vegetarian comfort food with a Mediterranean twist.” How have Vancouver diners reacted to your menu?
Now we’re vegan comfort food 😉
The responses have always been positive. There was a bit of an uproar when we removed eggs from our Shakshuka (a dish that traditionally is made with eggs). But overall, people like our food regardless of their dietary restrictions, preferences or practices. In fact we hear a lot of meat-eaters telling us that they didn’t even notice that our meals are all plant-based.
Are there any dishes that have proven to be particularly popular?
Our Falafel Pita is a truck and restaurant favourite, and our chickpea fries seem to be taking Vancouver by storm. If you’re at the restaurant we’re currently obsessed with the Shakshuka Chickpea fries.
How would you describe the typical Chickpea customer? Is there a predominant demographic?
One thing we love about Chickpea is that both our truck and restaurant see customers of all different walks of life. We feed adorable children, serious business people, colourful hippies, cute old couples, proud vegans, and everyone in-between. Our customers are united by their desire for delicious food and good vibes.
Do you think vegan and vegetarian food is becoming more mainstream in Vancouver? If so, why?
Globally, we are becoming more aware of our impact on the world and how we’ve lost touch with our roots. As we move together as a community to reduce our carbon footprint, our eating habits play an important role. Vancouver is constantly working towards becoming more environmentally conscious, so it makes sense that more people are reducing or eliminating their animal product/by-product consumption.
What have you enjoyed most about launching and building Chickpea as a business?
Chickpea is more than just food. We’ve worked hard to create a business that reflects our desire to promote love, joy and creative inspiration. As a result, it’s been an absolute pleasure meeting new people who also care deeply about our planet and connecting with one another. Also, through the truck we’ve been exposed to some really cool local initiatives and events. In addition, we continue to love creating a family with our staff, customers and community members.
What have the biggest challenges been?
Anyone who’s started a business knows how all encompassing it is. Before Chickpea, we were both really good at taking time for ourselves and spending time with our family and friends. We’re working hard to regain that balance.
Do you have plans to expand Chickpea further? What are your goals for the future?
We are always discussing Chickpea’s future and new goals for the business. However, going back to our biggest challenges, for now we’re quite focused on having more quality time spent in nature with family and friends.
What would you say to skeptical carnivores to convince them to try Chickpea?
Carnivores regularly eat at Chickpea. So instead of trying to convince them, we’re happy that we can show how accessible and delicious meat-less meals are.
Chickpea is located at 4298 Main Street, Vancouver. (604) 620-0602 email@example.com