Turin's Mayor is promoting a vegetarian and vegan lifestyle among the population

The newly elected mayor of Turin has pledged to make the promotion of vegetarian and vegan diets a priority in her administration, making it a first for a local government in Italy to encourage a plant-based diet as part of their political aims.

Chiara Appendino, a multilingual businesswoman who studied international economics and management, was elected in June with 55% of the vote making her the city’s third female mayor.

Consequently, it is expected that Turin will introduce school lessons on animal welfare, nutrition and the various benefits of vegan and vegetarian lifestyles, with an interest in advocating these to the public. Such changes could have far reaching effects considering the city is Italy’s fourth largest by population with approximately 870,000 residents.

Chiara Appendino's politics

Appendino is a force in the anti-establishment, anti-globalist, populist, environmentalist, Eurosceptic Five Star Movement (M5S) - a political movement which started in 2009. 

Chiara Appendino, Turin's mayor, is focused on getting the population to eat more plants and appreciate a vegetarian/vegan lifestyle

Chiara Appendino, Turin's mayor, is focused on getting the population to eat more plants and appreciate a vegetarian/vegan lifestyle

The five stars refer to their five central issues that are public water, sustainable development, sustainable transport, environmentalism and right to Internet access. Their 62-page manifesto, excitingly entitled ‘The Government programme for the city of Turin 2016-2021’ stated ‘the promotion of vegan and vegetarian diets is a fundamental act in safeguarding our environment, the health of our citizens and the welfare of our animals’.

Apparently the issues will be tackled as ‘leading medical, nutritional and political experts will help promote a culture of respect in our schools, teaching children how to eat well while protecting the earth and animal rights’. M5S, which does not consider itself part of the left-right paradigm, appears to be gaining popularity; not only did the party win in Turin but also in the capital of Rome where Virginia Raggi won a landslide victory against the prime minister’s Democratic party. Indeed, according to polls in early July, it was the most popular party in the country and it has been gaining support in local elections throughout Italy.

Changing Turin's culture

Not everyone met these plant-based plans with total enthusiasm, especially given that meat dishes have played a significant part in Northern Italy’s food traditions for centuries. Favourite dishes include vitello tonnato which is veal with tuna sauce, brasato al Barolo which is beef braised in the Piedmont region’s red wine, bollito misto, carne cruda, finanziera and so on, all of which contain meat.

The new council’s environment assessor Stefania Giannuzzi, however, reiterates the fundamental reasoning behind the changes, explaining that “the information these initiatives are based on are from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)”.

In 2006 the FAO reported that the meat and dairy industry is accountable for more greenhouse gas emissions annually than the entire world’s yearly transportation - a well-founded reason to promote vegetarian and vegan diets. More recently in 2015, the World Health Organization labelled processed meats as carcinogenic, causing meat producers in Italy to deem the classification as “meat terrorism”, perhaps indicative of the dismay that M5S’s veggie-based plans would incite.

However Giannuzzi, appointed by Appendido, also clarifies “I’m a vegetarian and have been for 20 years. But in reality, this programme isn’t something I instigated – it’s just an extension of schemes which have been in place for years”. Indeed, there is certainly evidence that Italy’s tastes have recently been changing – since 2001 the council has financially backed VegFestival for vegetarians and there are currently over 30 vegetarian and vegan restaurants in Turin. Time will tell the repercussions of M5S’s manifesto, but it’s certainly an interesting development to follow for the next 5 years.