Meat in excess is bad for us. We know that. The health benefits of a plant based diet has been widely studied and has been shown to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity and some cancers. What we often don’t contemplate is the cost of meat to our planet. Food production is the second leading cause of Greenhouse Gas emissions in Australia and 70% of these emissions come from animal production.
Plant based diets have lower Greenhouse Gas emissions then meat based diets, emitting only 1kg of Greenhouse Gas per 1kg of plant foods compared to 8kg of Greenhouse Gas per 1kg of beef. Climate change experts are now recommending a reduction in meat consumption, especially from methane-producing cattle and sheep.
In 2003 a movement called “Meatless Mondays” began and has been promoted all around the world including in Europe, Japan, the United States, Britain, Canada, Central Asia, Israel and now Australia. Sir Paul McCartney kicked off Meat Free Monday in the U.K and now the rest of the world is following.
“What is most important is to make people act as citizens rather than as consumers. There is strong scientific evidence that consumers do not consider big issues (such as climate change or deforestation) when they are about to buy something.”
– Jonas Paulsson Founder of Meatless Monday in Sweden
- India – Nearly a billion Hindus throughout Asia are joining in and respected Hindu statesman, Rajan Zed, president of the Universal Society of Hinduism, is endorsing the campaign for health, environmental and ethical reasons.
- Belgium – In Europe, the city of Ghent in Belgium has instituted a “Veggie Dag,” where restaurants, schools, hospitals and city offices provide meatless options to help reduce climate change. Other cities in Belgium and Holland are now moving to start their own programs.
- Israel – In Israel, dozens of its finest restaurants have teamed up with “on the Table” food magazine to institute Meatless Mondays with the goal to create cuisine that supports the global effort to better the environment. “On the Table” has also received a pledge from hundreds of readers promising to go meatless on day a week.
- USA – In Baltimore they have instituted Meatless Monday options in every school’s lunch menu, focusing on the children- the future of the country. This is a huge step towards reducing the obesity epidemic that is plaguing the developed world.
Meatless Monday – A Campaign Born 100 Years Ago
“Meatless Monday,” along with “Wheatless Wednesday” were introduced during World War 1. The U.S. Food Administration aimed to encourage Americans to do their part and reduce consumption of key staples to aid the war effort. Recipe booklets and menus in newspapers, magazines and pamphlets were distributed throughout America and the effect was overwhelming. Some 10 million families, 7,000 hotels and nearly 425,000 food dealers pledged to observe national meatless days. In November 1917, New York City hotels saved some 116 tons of meat over the course of just one week.
“Americans began to look seriously into the question of what and how much they were eating. Lots of people discovered for the first time that they could eat less and feel no worse – frequently for the better”.
– a 1929 Saturday Evening Post article
Join In Meatless Monday
People all around the world are joining in and supporting the notion of cutting back on meat to improve personal health as well as the health of the planet. If YOU support Meatless Monday, take the pledge here and ask your friends, family, school and workmates to do the same.
What Difference Will My Pledge Make?
- Reduced Fossil Fuel Consumption– If everyone in the USA switched to taking meat out of their diet one day a week, it would save approximately 45 billion gallons of petrol per year
- Reduce Water Usage- Meat protein uses over ten times more water then vegetable protein. It is estimated that it takes 2400 liters of water to produce a 450g hamburger (enough water for a four-hour shower)
- Greenhouse Gas Emissions- The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that global food animal production generates nearly one fifth of the world’s man-made greenhouse gas emission, far more than transportation.
- Reduce Antibiotic Use in Livestock – In 2010 the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released data that stated that of the antibiotics sold in 2009 for both people and food animals, almost 80% were reserved for livestock and poultry. That’s 13.1 million kg of antibiotics used for animal food compared to 3.3 million for human use. Did somebody say antibiotic resistance?!
- Reduce Risk of Mortality- Studies have shown that those who consume a high amount of red and processed meat have a significantly higher risk of overall mortality, cancer mortality and cardiovascular disease mortality.
If you eat meat on a regular basis, going meatless one day a week would reduce your carbon emissions by ~28.5% for the week! So friends, I am asking you, please take the pledge!
For some delicious meat free recipes, see here
Rachel Dickens, The Conscious Dietitian, is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator. She graduated with her Masters in Nutrition and Dietetics in 2010 from Griffith University. She strives to provide evidence-based nutrition information with a focus on plant-based nutrition, and share some of her favourite seasonal recipes and sustainable eating tips.