The Meatless Monday Movement
I enjoy eating meat. It's not surprising, since many of my fond childhood memories involve my dad and the BBQ. But recently, I have been struggling with this lifestyle choice. I am trying to weigh the value of eating a living thing for survival. Our bodies are designed with the ability to digest meat, so how wrong can it be? However, there is a good chance that the animals I am eating were not ethically raised or killed. This dilemma is compounded by the environmentally destructive way we raise, process, and ship our meat products.
While I weigh this choice, I have been cutting down my meat consumption and am researching more about the treatment of livestock. During this search, I discovered Meatless Monday. This movement is trying to reduce our consumption of meat and help improve both people’s personal health and the environment.
What Is Meatless Monday?
Meatless Monday draws its inspiration from World War I, when the government rallied the people to voluntarily reduce their consumption of key staples to help with the war. Meatless Monday and Wheatless Wednesday were created to support this effort. Thousands of hotels, hundreds of thousands of food dealers and millions of individuals pledged to observe a meatless day.
This effort was revived once again during World War II by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. President Harry S. Truman continued the program in an effort to help feed Europe as it recovered from the destruction brought by World War II. Then in 2003, Sid Lerner reintroduced us to Meatless Monday as a public health awareness campaign. The campaign is backed by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
What I love about this movement is not asking for anything extreme. All they ask is to give up meat one day a week. This would theoretically cut our meat consumption by 15%.
How Does It Help?
According to a National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey conducted in 2009-2010, Americans typically will consume 1½ times more protein than the daily recommended dietary allowance. Cutting meat out of your diet once a week may reduce your risk of chronic conditions like cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and obesity.
Any reduction in your meat consumption will reduce your carbon footprint and save resources. Currently, 75% of agricultural land is used for livestock. The greenhouse gases created during the livestock process are greater than that of the transportation industry.
Using the EPA’s Greenhouse Gas Equivalencies Calculator, every ¼ pound of beef eaten is responsible for the same emissions as driving 6.7 miles. If you were to skip one serving of beef a week, that would be like cutting out 348 miles of driving every year. While planes, trains, and automobiles might be a more obvious place to fight climate change, there are many more areas in our lives we can address to tackle global warming.
Raising livestock is a water-intensive practice. It takes about 425 gallons of water to create a 1/4 pound beef patty for your burger. To put that number into perspective, that amount of water is enough for 1,700 people to drink for a day. When access to drinkable water is becoming a global concern, it’s hard not to think about the 6,800 glasses of fresh water you are about to put into your mouth as you bite down on that juicy quarter pounder hamburger.
Mondays were chosen because studies suggest that behaviors begun on Monday are more likely maintained throughout the week. The days of the week as we know them are a social construct and not biologically based. Mondays are typically perceived as a time when we start the routine of the week again. This can either be viewed as a negative outlook of having to start another week again or a positive idea of getting a new start to what can become a new routine.
If you found this article interesting, I suggest check out the website www.meatlessmonday.com to learn more about the movement. Their site provides tons of meatless recipes for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert. If getting people to stop eating meat is something you are passionate about, they also provide a list of places that have agreed to not serve meat on Monday. As of 2019, they are involved in over 40 countries. Check if your school, hospital, or office cafeteria is on the list. If not, maybe you can inspire them to join the movement.