When the restaurants at the Faculty of Architecture switched to completely vegetarian, I followed the discussion with disbelief. This measure has caused quite a stir – not only within the TU Delft community, but at national level as well, including angry pig farmers.
The reasoning behind the measure is: we must eat vegetarian food on campus, because the food we eat here was one of the three largest emitters of greenhouse gases at TU Delft in 2018. Seriously? Could the discussion be a little more nuanced? Vegetarian food, for example, often also has long transport routes behind it – with serious consequences for the climate. The discussion that followed was even stranger: it was mainly about tendentious newspaper articles and abuse of power by large interest groups. I choke on that delicious cheese cube from fright about this kind of logic of do-gooders, who may soon also go vegan. Can’t I decide for myself what I eat and why?
‘You have to convince people’
You can of course take the food you like to the campus yourself. I usually do that: I regularly conjure up healthy treats from my small green cool box in front of my jealous colleagues. Simply because I go for healthy and tasty. This is not always available in the company restaurants. In recent years, I found the offer there to contain too few fruit and vegetables and far too much meat and unhealthy fats. And yet, I do not need vegetarian restaurants.
Think of the parent who got up early, dressed small children, fed them, and took them to daycare and primary school by bike. Because of stuffed toys left behind, milk cups knocked over and lost hair clips, they have hardly had time to eat breakfast themselves, let alone take food with them. Do you really want to deny them a ham sandwich or a cheese sandwich in a few months? That doesn't work for me.
Speaking of children, do you think you’re convincing them with restrictions or prohibitions? Not really. There seems to be many children on our planet who eat little or no fruit and vegetables. Yet there is a different way. The hundreds of friends my son has brought home over time have all eaten the fruit and vegetables we served them. Cut into pieces for their convenience. Making healthy and delicious food easily available works best.
Vegetarian restaurants impose a certain eating style on us. I don’t think this is the right measure. You have to convince people. Let them experience how much better this kind of food makes them feel. Provide the necessary information about healthy nutrition. Above all, offer them delicious, vegetarian food for a reasonable price – and then a piece of meat every now and then won't hurt either. I am happy to be convinced. In recent years I have mainly looked for new recipes without meat or fish. So if you want to respond to this column, make sure to send me the recipe of your favourite vegetarian dish. Enjoy your meal!
Claudia Werker is Associate Professor Economics of Technology and Innovation at the Faculty of TPM. She has worked at TU Delft since 2007. She is also the Vice Chair of TU Delft’s Works Council.