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Dutch City Bans Meat Advertisements: All You Need To Know

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The city of Haarlem in the Netherlands has placed a ban on meat advertising which is set to come into effect from 2024. The production of meat has been conclusively demonstrated to be one of the largest contributors to global emissions and land waste. It is responsible for 60% of greenhouse emissions from food production, prompting the city’s council to act.   

Banned from Public Spaces 

Adverts will be banned from all public spaces such as buses, shelters and advertisement screens. Meat will no longer be promoted to the 160,000 residents of Haarlem as they traverse the city. The ban directly addresses the unethical nature of promoting unsustainable products, specifically those that contribute towards the climate crisis.  

Haarlem councillor Ziggy Klazes, who helped create this motion, said that “We can’t tell people there’s a climate crisis and encourage them to buy products that are part of the cause.” In this, the city has recognised that the food its residents choose to eat plays a significant role in determining their carbon footprint. Haarlem is the first city anywhere in the world to recognise this crucial link in policy, as the motion proposed by the GroenLinks party was passed in September this year.  

Extent of the Ban 

As it stands, the ban addresses meat produced by intensive farming only. There have been no comments or decisions made by the council regarding organically farmed meat. In addition to this, it is not clear how the ban will be enforced on independent retailers and how it will affect different foods and brands. Clearer guidelines will certainly be needed before the ban is put into practice.  

Ziggy Klazes is hopeful that the idea will spread nationally, calling it a ‘signal’ to others. Klazes concluded “There are many groups of Groenlinks who think it is a good idea and want to try it.”  

Will it Catch On? 

This is an innovative policy decision and a bold move against the industries that are damaging the environment. But will other cities follow? The party represents the local green-left and it seems likely other councillors will put forward motions in their own cities. 

Haarlem is the first ever city to do this and the ban follows on from similar restrictions being placed on the advertisement of air-travel, petrol cars and fossil fuels by Amsterdam in 2021. Elsewhere, Norwich in the UK has placed limitations on advertising products that are harmful for the environment and several UK cities are moving in a similar direction. The key here is raising awareness about the detrimental impact meat has on the environment and getting politicians to understand that meat production plays a major role.  

This action has received masses of news and media coverage despite not yet being put into place. If this idea is implemented by other cities, Haarlem will be regarded as a pioneer of this type of policy.   

Agricultural Backlash 

The restriction aims to reduce people’s temptation to buy meat, therefore reducing meat consumption and production. The Netherlands has already committed to reducing the number of animals farmed for food by a third to reduce emissions and farm waste.  

Unsurprisingly, the animal agriculture industry have expressed strong opposition to the decision. Farmers have made news protesting recent restrictions on herd size put into place to reduce emissions. Their staged “tractor protests” blocked motorways and caused disruption to make their opposition known to the government. Before this ban, tensions were already high with the government’s perceived interference in their farming practices.  

The ban also raises moral considerations over freedom of expression, and there have been questions of censorship levelled against the ban. Is it ethical to control what is advertised to the public? One right wing councillor, representing the farmers and the opposing political side, Joey Rademaker, called the move “dictatorial” because the ban is for “political reasons” and does not allow people to make up their own minds about what they eat.  

Growth of Alternatives 

Supporters reinforce that the ban is driven by environmental concern rather than a bid for political control. Indeed, plant-based alternatives to meat are far more sustainable – they have less emissions and cost less to produce.  

Although the Netherlands still has a large meat-eating population, there are more people trying meat alternatives than ever before. The plant-based market in the Netherlands is one of the largest in the European Union with sales of 134 million.  

Haarlem is, undoubtedly, making a bold and innovative step in the right direction. This ban will continue to spark a debate on the ethics of consuming animal products on the local, national, and global stage. The party’s full ideology and hopes for the future can be seen in their New Green Deal for the Netherlands. 

Sean Barrs
Sean is an activist and academic. He is researching his English Literature PhD thesis on the politics of diet. He is also an ultra-runner with a keen interest in everything plant-based. In the past, he has written for numerous publications including Plant Based News and The Vegan Review.