Haarlem – the first city in the world to ban meat advertising

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Haarlem, a town a few miles from Amsterdam, is breaking headlines recently, as the town has decided that it will no longer permit the advertisement of meat from 2024. With a population of 160,000, Haarlem will become the first city in the world to implement a ban on meat advertising in an effort to reduce their carbon footprint.

Haarlem - the first city in the world to ban meat advertising

The initiative, which was presented last year by Councillor Ziggy Klazes of the Dutch environmental party GroenLinks (“Green Left”), aims to encourage lower meat consumption and raise awareness of the issue of reducing greenhouse gases produced by farms due to the fact that 14.5% of all greenhouse emissions come from intensive livestock farming. 

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It is not only meat that will be included in the advertising ban. The town of Haarlem is also working on a wider list of products whose advertisements will also be banned due to their role in contributing to the climate crisis.

There are still a number of unclear points on how the ban will be implemented, but it is certain that before 2024 it will not be put into practice because only then will the licences granted to meat producers to advertise in the city expire.

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Despite this ban on meat being considered controversial, it is not unique. For decades, there have been EU-wide bans on smoking adverts as it has been declared a social and environmental problem. Similarly, this ban doesn’t eliminate one’s right to consume meat, but rather eliminates a channel of adhesion, and in return adds a channel of awareness. 

As Klazes told in an interview on Haarlem105:

“If people want to continue eating meat, well. But we cannot tell them that there is a climate crisis and at the same time encourage them to buy products that are the cause of this crisis”.

Klazes also said he hoped that the initiative would be imitated by other cities, and possibly also by the national government.

The city of Haarlem’s meat advertising ban has not been met with welcome arms by all. Sander van den Raadt, a local leader of the centre-right Trots party, criticized the initiative saying that it is a restriction on freedom of expression:

“It is extraordinary that the municipality of Haarlem organizes a large advertising campaign to tell people in the city that they can be themselves and love who they want, but at the same time if these like meat instead of vegetables will come a “paternalistic brigade” to tell them that they are wrong”.

Klazes defended the decision of the city council in a post on his party’s website, responding to criticism and those who claim that there is nothing wrong with advertising meat. 

According to Klazes, if this were the case, the advertising of meat products should tell the truth:

No skipping lambs and happy calves willing, so to speak, on their own initiative to jump on the knife for us. No. The ads should contain gory images of slaughterhouses, cows poked between the eyes, endless rails with dead chickens, and stables with sows and pigs on steel nets. [… ] The slogan could be “Flesh, not beautiful, but good”.

As far as we are concerned, it would not be a bad thing if the next step would be to publicize the daily lives of farm animals. Simply seeing the finished product, in all its splendour, really makes you think that there is no cruel hidden procedure but a normal known process. 

We also know that with new marketing strategies everything can seem tasty and palatable. That’s why this new step would be ideal as it allows for more conscious consumption. It is so important that consumers learn more about the process from the farm to the table, in order to decide if what they are eating is really worth it.

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