Berkeley, California made history today as the first US city to leave behind animal products in favor of plant-based foods. The Berkeley City Council announced plans to replace at least 50 percent of the animal-based food expenditures with plant-based options by 2024. According to The Daily Californian, the move is the first step in the city’s goal to phase out all animal products across all its establishments including summer camps, the jail, senior centers, and other municipal institutions.

The resolution authored by Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguin and Councilmember Sophie Hahn reads: “Streamlining the City of Berkeley’s transition to plant-forward and plant-based meals advances the City’s Strategic Plan Priority of being a global leader in addressing climate change, advancing environmental justice, and protecting the environment and support the Climate Action Plan goal that a majority of food consumed in Berkeley be produced locally.”

During the July 27th meeting, the city council discussed how the plant-based transition would encourage the city and its population to adopt vegan eating. Mayor Arreguin and the city council felt motivated by environmental, health, and ethical concerns, hoping that this transition would spread awareness of the benefits of plant-based living. The council session shows that the plant-based transition aimed to cut back on the negative impacts of carbon emissions, water scarcity, and climate change-related natural disasters.

This push for sustainability comes after years of protests from local organizers that want to address the dangers of animal agriculture. Direct Action Everywhere leader Almira Tanner claims that the constant clash between animal rights activists and the city council is the reason the resolution passed.

“This industry is immensely powerful, but it’s no match for ordinary, passionate people who come together to take collective action,” Tanner said in an email to The Daily Californian. “This is only the beginning.”

Beyond the environment, Berkeley’s decision to scale back its animal-based foods emerges from a deeper concern about individual health and wellness. The city’s goal is to promote healthy and nutritional living among people, especially following the COVID-19 pandemic. The agenda also discussed the benefits of plant-based eating surrounding diseases such as cancer and diabetes, hoping to emphasize the importance of nutrition regarding immunity.

Before the plant-based foods campaign, Berkeley entered the spotlight for cruelty-free, plant-based initiatives when it became the second city in the US to ban the sale of fur in 2017. Following West Hollywood’s fur ban, Berkeley city council member Kriss Worthington proposed the fur sales ban to promote the humane treatment of animals.

“These animals are often victims of cruel conditions that include intense stress, distressed and repetitive movement, self-mutilation, and even cannibalism,” the proposal reads, quoting the Free Fur Berkeley’s website. “With the availability of countless varieties of adequate fabrics, there is no need for this brutal industry.”

These measures only mark the beginning of the city’s campaign to redesign its food expenditures and systems. With a spotlight on sustainability, the city will continue to evaluate ways to lower carbon emissions, promote nutrition, and stop the harmful byproducts of animal agriculture.

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