Help Canada develop a humane, healthy and sustainable food policy

The federal government is holding two online consultations on food policy in Canada, providing the public with a chance to have their say.  VHS is urging Canadians to take part in the consultations and emphasize the value of a plant-based diet.

A Food Policy for Canada: This online survey will “help set a long-term vision for the health, environmental, social, and economic goals related to food, while identifying actions we can take in the short-term.” (Survey closes August 31.)

Canada’s Food Guide Consultation: This is a survey on draft recommendations for a new Canada Food Guide, which advises Canadians on dietary choices. (Survey closes Aug 14.)

General points to make:

Although the surveys cover a range of topics, there are opportunities to point out the importance of a plant-based diet to human health, the environment and animal welfare.  We suggest making these points wherever applicable:

A plant-based diet has specific health benefits, which are well established by scientific evidence. These include: lower cholesterol, blood pressure and blood sugar; healthier weight and lower risk of cancer and diabetes.

The Canada Food Guide and government information on food policy should contain advice on how to transition to a plant-based diet, including specific information on how to replace animal protein with non-animal protein such as pulses.

The Canada Food Guide and government food policy should ensure Canadians receive information on the health, environmental and animal welfare implications of dietary choices. There is substantial scientific evidence showing that the overconsumption of meat is linked to poor health; that meat and livestock production causes environmental degradation, contributes to climate change and wastes resources; that intensive agriculture (factory farming) is inherently inhumane to animals.

The government should actively promote the benefits of a plant-based diet and encourage its adoption by Canadians. 

Specific points to make on the Canada Food Guide survey:

Guiding Principle #1 – The guide should include more examples of plant-based proteins and less of animal-based proteins, given that this principle aims to encourage the public to increase their intake of plant-based proteins.

#2 – Processed or prepared foods high in sodium, sugars or saturated fat should be avoided altogether, rather than limited.

#3 – Knowledge and skill-sharing should extend to the larger community, including community centers, workplaces, schools, hospitals, etc. The Canada Food Guide should contain advice on how to transition to a plant-based diet. Meanwhile, the government should actively promote the benefits of a plant-based diet and encourage its adoption by Canadians.  It should support concepts such as Meatless Monday, especially in schools, hospitals and workplaces, to familiarize Canadians with plant-based eating and its benefits.

Considerations section – Animal welfare should also be included as a consideration. If increasing knowledge surrounding our food system is important, as indicated in Guiding Principle #3, than highlighting the reality and impact of intensive animal agriculture (factory farming) is crucial. Raising awareness of this consideration would also help in creating a more humane, healthy and sustainable food system in Canada.