Going Veg Where Doctors Still Promote Meat-Eating


Posters for this year's and last year's Planeta Vegetariana festival in Serbia.

The Balkan countries aren't generally known for their light, healthy fare. When expat Istanbul-dwellers cross the border into Bulgaria, it's to indulge in bacon-wrapped cheese skewers, cheese-stuffed pork loin... you get the idea. But some forward-thinking folks in Novi Sad, Serbia, are a promoting another way of eating with their third annual "Planeta Vegetariana" vegetarian food and organic agriculture fair.Opened yesterday and running through today, this year's installment of Planeta Vegetariana gathers regional producers of healthy foods on the city's main piazza, just in front of City Hall. Ethical cosmetics, plant-based medicines, and other products made "in harmony with nature" are also on display, along with exhibitions of posters from global ecology and animal rights campaigns. Last year's edition included an organic fashion show, presentations on fitness and sports activities, and talks on healthy eating and the relationship between health and ecology.

Combating Misinformation About Vegetarianism
The first fair, in 2007, drew around 3,000 visitors, and organizers reported that they were "pleasantly surprised" by the response and that as a result, "the subject of vegetarianism suddenly became common knowledge in Serbia, even against all the ignorance and various prejudices about it."

"Our doctors constantly preach that we should eat meat, but it is scientifically proven that we can nourish ourselves without [it]," organizer Stevan Zivkov, the director of the Cityfocus Agency, said at the time, expressing his hopes that increased production of organic agriculture could become a boon not only to Serbians' health but to the country's export industry.

Located on the banks of the Danube river in the northern province of Vojvodina, Novi Sad has long been a cultural, industrial, and financial center for the country. The Planeta Vegetariana fair is just one example of how it's starting to become an environmental leader too -- and not a moment too soon.

A Green Music Festival and Courier Service
"The pollution of our cities is devastating and respiratory diseases are very frequent in our country; also the number of green areas in our largest cities is dropping dramatically," says Zivkov. But, he added, "I can generally say that the people are much more interested in ecology than the government and especially the media."

In July, Novi Sad's Petrovaradin Fortress fortress drew music lovers from around Europe to the Exit Festival, hosted under the Ecology Ministry-supported theme "I Want to Live Green and Clean," which incorporated recycling and educational activities into the event. And since April, special "Green Courier" bicycles and electric scooters have been zipping around the city making ecofriendly deliveries of food, documents, and small packages, the first such service in the Balkans. Ziveli!
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