Baltimore Becomes First US City to Proclaim January as Official Veganuary Month
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Baltimore has become the first-ever US city to declare January as the official month of Veganuary, with Mayor Brandon Scott highlighting the planetary, animal welfare and health benefits of plant-based diets in his proclamation.
Veganuary 2024 has witnessed a new milestone – Baltimore, Maryland has become the first US city to declare January as the official Veganuary month, citing benefits for the climate, animals and human health.
The annual campaign challenges people to go vegan for the first month of the year, with the premise that it is ample time to be able to form a habit and stick to it. In its 11th year now, the movement has gone from strength-to-strength and is expected to break participation records yet again this year.
Baltimore’s proclamation came after a request by the Black Veg Society and Veganuary, with support from DefaultVeg. The city is home to the annual Vegan Soulfest (which was attended by 16,000 people last year) and ranked among the top 10 cities nationwide for the number of signups to Veganuary 2023.
In the proclamation document, Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott said the city is “committed to fostering a resilient, sustainable, and healthy community for its citizens”. He urged “residents, restaurants, retailers, and institutions to explore and continue to add plant-based options by default”, going on to point out the numerous benefits associated with veganism.
Honing in on health, climate and animal welfare
“Veganuary encourages and supports people and businesses alike to move to a plant-based diet as a way of protecting the environment, preventing animal suffering, and improving the health of millions of people,” wrote the mayor.
Research has revealed that animal agriculture accounts for 11-19.5% of all GHG emissions. And while the overall food system is responsible for a third of global emissions, 60% of these come from meat production). Emissions from animal-derived foods are twice as high as those from plant-based products, and one study revealed that veganism can cut emissions, land use and water pollution by 75%.
The proclamation noted the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s recommendation that a global shift towards plant-forward eating is critical to mitigate the worst impacts of climate change. A separate study has revealed that even a 50% switch from meat and dairy to plant-based alternatives can reduce emissions by 31%, halting deforestation and doubling overall climate benefits.
Scott pointed out that “heart disease, stroke and diabetes are among the leading causes of death in Baltimore”, before adding that research has shown that vegan diets can reduce the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes and obesity. Indeed, eating plants has been linked to a lower risk of cardiovascular disease (and eating processed red meat is associated with a higher likelihood of developing it). Vegan diets and lower meat consumption have also been proven to reduce the incidence of type 2 diabetes.
“Animals raised for food are often caged, overcrowded, and denied their natural needs in today’s factory farms,” the mayor added. Research has found that 10 billion animals – and 99% of all livestock – in the US are factory-farmed, which contributes to the 100-billion figure of animals killed for meat every year.
Growing support for Veganuary from US cities
“Baltimore’s diverse restaurants, grocers, and farmer’s markets are increasingly delivering vibrant, healthy, plant-based foods,” the proclamation continued. This effort has been spearheaded by Black Veg Society’s Maryland Vegan Eats and can be evidenced through vegan eatery Land of Kush, a local favourite, which kicked off Veganuary with an anniversary party featuring specials, new menu samplings, and a resident artist unveiling. Then there are chains like &Pizza, which has added two new plant-based options with Daring Chicken.
“With Baltimore Mayor Scott’s proclamation, I’m sending many blessings that the city will pledge to go vegan in January and support local vegan and veg-friendly restaurants, as well as those around the state of Maryland,” said Naijha Wright-Brown of Black Veg Society and Land of Kush.”
She added: “We need to open the dialogue throughout our communities about health disparities, access to nutritional foods, environmentalism, and compassion for animals, especially in predominantly BIPOC ones. We will continue to partner with vegan and veg-friendly restaurants while organising our celebratory events such as the bi-annual Maryland Vegan Restaurant Month in March and August, the annual Vegan SoulFest, and more.”
Baltimore is far from the only city promoting plant-based lifestyles. Last year, New York City launched its first Vegan Dining Month to coincide with Veganuary. With plenty of vegan credit in the bank, the Big Apple is pushing plant-based meals into schools, hospitals and even jails – public schools have Plant-Powered Fridays, while jails have vegan meals for lunch or dinner at least one day a week.
Meanwhile, in 2021, the Berkeley City Council in California voted to divert half of the city’s spending from animal-based to plant-based foods by 2024, with a view to converting that into 100% and a pledge towards promoting vegan diets to tackle climate change.
In a similar move to Baltimore, Kirk Watson, the mayor of Austin, Texas, has officially declared January 2024 as Plant-Based for the Planet Month, with over 14 participating restaurants and 35 new menu specials across the city. “Our gratitude extends to the creative local restaurant partners helping us illustrate that eating more plant-based food is not only great for the environment and great for our health – but also delicious,” said Edwin Marty, food policy manager for the City of Austin.