Amsterdam has announced plans to serve vegetarian food by default at all catered events in its buildings from next year.

Meetings in the Dutch capital will be meat-free unless attendees specifically request otherwise, the council’s executive body has announced.

The initiative, called ‘Carnivore? Let us know’ (Carnivore? Geef het door), was a proposal from council member Johnas van Lammeren of the Party for the Animals.

Mr Lammeren had proposed serving vegan food as standard, but this was considered a step too far in the dairy-loving Netherlands.

“The executive supports the underlying goal of the proposal…but it is better to make the standard vegetarian at first rather than vegan,” said the head of operational management Rutger Groot Wassink and head of animal welfare Laurens Ivens in an announcement.

“The initiative makes it the individual’s choice of whether to have meat or fish.”

The city’s four coalition parties – which have the majority of seats – have adopted the proposal and it is set to go to a full council vote in June. When the city’s new caterer is chosen, all catered events should then have veggie dogs, cheese balls and vegetable snacks as default.

Mr Wassink, from the council’s executive committee, said: “We are turning the norms upside down. The question is no longer, ‘Are you vegetarian?’ but ‘Do you eat meat or fish?’ This government is making sustainable choices and I think that we should also make them for ourselves. This is about giving a good example.”

But the decision to serve vegetarian food first has stirred the pot in a country where there are four million cows to the 17 million people.

When Utrecht announced that some council events would exclusively serve vegetarian food, the liberal VVD party protested about the right to choose. According to Dutch media, it was particularly exercised about the partial loss of the bitterbal, a deep-fried nugget of pulverised meat in white sauce, which VVD MP Arno Rutte called “part of our cultural heritage”. Now, council-event lunches in Utrecht are vegetarian.

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