No Meat On the Riviera: Cannes Film Festival Bans Beef to Reduce Carbon Footprint

5 Mins Read

Beef is on the chopping block (so to speak) at Cannes, one of the world’s biggest film festivals, whose organisers acknowledge it is the “biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions” in the food system.

While there may be some beef over Sebastian Stan’s turn as a young Donald Trump in The Apprentice, there will be no actual beef served at the premier film festival of the EU’s largest beef supplier.

As part of a list of environmental initiatives, the ongoing Cannes Film Festival has introduced a ban on beef from its meals and cocktail receptions. The initiative is slated to help reduce its carbon footprint, but goes contrary to the French government’s own stance on meat.

This does not apply to events hosted by third parties in Cannes during the course of the festival (May 14-25), or non-accredited visitors of the event – but it’s a big move by one of the film industry’s most revered festivals, and a sign that climate change is finally creeping into the movies.

Cannes beef ban important for meat-hungry France

In its list of environmental guidelines, Cannes’ organisers explain that the festival’s caterers are respecting a “responsible” statement of requirements that include commitments to favouring local and seasonal products, short food supply chains, offering vegetarian options, tackling food waste, and limiting overall waste.

“As a complementary measure, for the meals and cocktail receptions that it organises, the Festival de Cannes is committed to increasing the number of vegetarian options and to no longer serving beef, which is the biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions,” it says.

food greenhouse gas emissions
Courtesy: Our World in Data

Beef is associated with the highest amount of greenhouse gas emissions per kg, twice more than the next most polluting food (dark chocolate). The festival has cited research that suggests beef production releases 4.5 times more greenhouse gas into the atmosphere than white meat, prompting the Cannes organisers to implement the ban as an “effective and acceptable way of reducing the carbon impact of food”.

But while the festival in southern France might be favouring beet over beef bourguignon, on the other end of the spectrum lies the national government. Last year, its agriculture minister promoted factory farming in the country so that it can produce more meat, and for cheaper. It went against the grain of the EU’s Farm to Fork policy, and was a regressive move for the climate targets of what is the bloc’s largest beef supplier.

france plant based meat
Courtesy: Flaggenwelt/Getty Images

The industrial farming nod also came two weeks after it proposed an extensively restrictive labelling ban for plant-based meat companies, which barred them from using words like ‘sausage’ or ‘ham’ on their vegan analogues. That ban, which came into effect in March, has since been suspended by the country’s top court, which cited “serious doubts” about the move’s legality.

French people are already eating more meat than recommended, with health and climate experts urging the national dietary guidelines to suggest a decrease in meat intake for both human and planetary health. This is why Cannes’ move is significant – it attracts the world’s attention during its 12-day run on the French Riviera.

Cannes Film Festival’s sustainability initiatives

The beef ban is one of a number of other climate-friendly initiatives at this year’s film festival – Cannes bosses want to align the event with the Paris Agreement’s 1.5°C goal, which states that entities should aim for at least a 21% reduction in GHG emissions by 2030, and ideally 43%.

The Cannes Film Festival, whose emissions cuts have so far been marginal in the last five years, is guaranteeing a 21% decrease by the end of the decade (representing at least 10,300 tonnes of CO2e), and says it is working towards the 43% target too.

cannes film festival sustainability
Courtesy: Festival de Cannes

Last year, more than 90% of its footprint came from the number of participants and their journeys into Cannes. To tackle that, the festival has been charging an “environmental contribution” of €20 per participant since 2021, all proceeds of which are donated to carbon reduction and sequestration programmes – these include marine restoration, rewilding land and reforesting initiatives (although any commitments around tree-planting and carbon offsets should be taken with a pinch of salt).

Moreover, its entire fleet of vehicles comprises electric cars, while festivalgoers are encouraged to walk when and where they can. The event has also reduced the size of its red carpets and is changing it less frequently, saving 1,400kg of material (59% of the carpet’s traditional volume). There are also no plastic water bottles, with the festival setting up water fountains across its spaces.

cannes emissions
Courtesy: Mathilde Gardel/Festival de Cannes

It must be noted that while yes, white meats have a much smaller environmental footprint than red meats like beef, lamb or mutton, poultry still pollutes the planet much more than plant-based meat analogues, and the Cannes Film Festival would do well to reduce all meat – not just beef – and increase the presence of alternative proteins. To its credit, it has committed to “making sure that our menus and buffets offer more and more vegetarian options”.

The film festival has always implored celebrities to use its electric vehicle fleet, but many are still flying in from their private jets. In 2022, Tom Cruise landed in hot water when he arrived in a helicopter to promote Top Gun: Maverick. That said, Cruise’s 2023 film, Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One, was one of only three Oscar-nominated movies this year to pass the Climate Reality Check (which explores the visibility of climate change on-screen in the style of the Bechdel Test).

climate change films
Courtesy: Good Energy/Colby College

In fact, less than 10% of movies in the last decade have passed both criteria of the test – climate change exists, and a character knows about it – according to climate story consultancy Good Energy and Colby College’s Buck Lab for Climate and Environment, which devised the test. They found that films mentioning climate change have incidentally made more money, but they also misrepresent the reality of the crisis.

Beef bans like the ones at Cannes are a good first step towards a more climate-aware film industry. The question is whether Hollywood and other film festivals can catch up.


  • Anay Mridul

    Anay is Green Queen's resident news reporter. Originally from India, he worked as a vegan food writer and editor in London, and is now travelling and reporting from across Asia. He's passionate about coffee, plant-based milk, cooking, eating, veganism, food tech, writing about all that, profiling people, and the Oxford comma.

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