My research with animals arrives in Ghent, in the Flemish region of Belgium. With a population of a quarter of a million, Ghent has an extraordinary social discipline. Every Thursday, shops and restaurants replace their meat menus for vegetarian and animal-friendly alternatives. Being a vegetarian here is a status symbol of independence, possibly reacting against the meat-heavy industry of their French counterparts.
The animal-friendly believes of the city has a back-lash. There is a bloom of invasive species thriving in the region. With close collaboration with Timelab the DIY maker community of Ghent, I began to explore what it means to be ‘open-source’ and with our food and ecology…
But Ghent has another animal-unfriendly issue. The invasive Canadian geese are huge, heavy animals, constantly pushing the soil near watersides into Ghent’s waters. In a region that classifies as the “The Lower Countries’ these invasive birds are literally blocking the drains of a city below the sea-level.
Photographer: Edward Vercruysse (championed bird watchers) – more on him later
In this politically vegetarian town, there is a secretive government program to solve that. Every year thousands of invasive geese are killed. They are caught by man force, individually injected with poisoned syringe and incinerated at huge public costs.
My collaborations at Timelab are to stayed in Ghent to meet with scientists, chefs, ecologists and urban planners, and explored the clash of values between the killing of animals for our environment and the killing of animals for our foods.
To bring this debate to surface, I proposed that we consume invasive species to control, rather than leaving the responsibility to governments that poison.
In a town that takes pride in the values of animal-friendliness, putting the goose on the table is a tool to explore a new form of activism that consumes not the selected products but the bi-products of nature.
Maybe the next step of being a vegetarian, is to become a Naturtarians?