A wasteland for vegetarians

A delicacy for some Germans: Fleischwurst, which comes in horse-shoe shaped rings.


I am not a staunch vegetarian. Most of the time, however, I do avoid meat. One reason is the environmental impact of meat farming, which – to name only a few issues – is a major source of greenhouse emissions and driver of deforestation. Ethical reasons are another motivation for me to cut down on meat.

In London, it was easy to do so, as vegetarianism and other eating habits have become mainstream. Vegetarian options at official dinners are the norm. Official invites always ask for “any dietary restrictions”.

Returning to Germany meant it has become harder to live like that. Especially on formal occasions like press receptions, Christmas dinners or corporate summer parties, you cannot take it for granted that vegetarian alternatives will be provided.

Hardly anybody asks for special dietary requirements, and the absence of the question does not imply that non-meat meals will be available anyway. Take a big event when a very traditional and large bank celebrated its anniversary. At first I thought, okay, they will ask about my dietary requirements at the event and will be prepared for all options. They did not and I was stuck with an ox cheek, which I ignored.

Ahead of the next dinner event, I asked in advance whether there would be an vegetarian option. “Of course”, was the answer. But my request fell through the cracks, and I was served some kind of roast. On a third occasion, I had to put up with a second serving of the starter which was meat free.

Germany still seems to be a vegetarian wasteland. The old cliché that Germans love meat and sausages and eat plenty of it seems to be true. There are 1500 different kind of sausages available, and there’s a plethora of idioms with references to meat products. One of my favourites is this one: Alles hat ein Ende, nur die Wurst hat zwei – everything has an end, only sausages have two. Here are some more.

While the consumption of meat in Germany has been declining in the last years, it’s still pretty high. Statistically, every person in German eats 59 kilograms of meat per year (most of it pork). That’s twice the level recommended by the German Society for Nutrition.

In 2013, the Green party caused an outcry by proposing that canteens for public sector workers should serve only vegetarian meals once a week.

As far as I’m concerned, one meaty meal per week would do. But unfortunately, it looks like it’s way too soon for such an idea.

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