Helsinki City Council voted on Wednesday evening to cut the use of meat and dairy products in half, over the next six years.
The motion was sponsored by Atte Harjanne (Green) and passed 42-39, with support coming from the Greens, Left Alliance, Pirates and Feminists; while the Social Democrats and National Coalition Party were split on the measure; and other parties on the centre right and right of the political spectrum largely voted against it.
“In the face of climate change and biodiversity loss it’s clear that we need a major reduction in meat use globally, and Finns are among the top animal product eaters in the EU” says Harjanne.
“We’re not forcing people to quit, just reduce”.
The council’s measure will now go back to the city board which is expected to reflect the wishes of the council and come up with ways to make the plan work.
In practice that means a likely switch from meat and dairy to vegetarian and vegan options at Helsinki schools and social services like meals for the elderly. All of the institutions and organisations owned or run by Helsinki City would also have to be in compliance.
“The thing here is that I fully support vegans because they are the spearhead, making it easy for a lazy person like me to split my meat consumption in half. It sounds kind of radical. And it kind of is. But it also isn’t” Harjanne tells News Now Finland.
“This doesn’t change everything. It doesn’t transform what the city is. But it’s a major step. It’s a great signal also for the food product industry that they have to cater for this kind of demand” says the politician, who is also a climate scientist and running for parliament in the upcoming general election.
Opposition to the council’s motion
Not everyone was happy with the proposal to cut the capital’s meat and dairy use by 50%.
One critic claimed online that the measure was more about saving costs than saving the environment, and that it would lead to the loss of free school meals.
Another asked “does this mean that dairy farmers suffer, and cows disappear from Finland, so people will be unemployed”.
Simon Elo, parliamentary group leader of the Blue Future political party called the move “unnecessary”, and said that ‘Red and Green’ politicians just got to superficially burnish their credentials with the new motion, when in practice there were already vegetarian options available to city employees and school pupils.
Petteri Leino, an adviser to the Blue Future Minister of Defence called the vote “uncompromising Communism, which is designed to [bring] misery and make people angry”.