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kubacheck/Photo above: maccosta
Let it be vegetarian. At least for one day.

I first became a vegetarian in 1997.

I was 12 years old and obsessed with the Beatles. I picked out books from the school library solely based on the date they were published, i.e. in the Beatles’ epoch of 1963-1969.

One day, my mom mentioned that the Beatles were vegetarian. That piece of trivia was all the convincing I needed to give up meat and beg my traditional Southern family to do the same. (They weren’t as willing to give up meat out of respect to John, Paul, George, and Ringo.)

Over the years I’ve vacillated between being vegetarian, vegan, and non-vegetarian, finding more reasons for my food choices than Beatles worship.

As a vegetarian with a passion for vegan food, I’m convinced that reducing meat consumption is one of the most powerful ways we can make a personal difference in world environmental, health, and ethical issues.

The Meatless Monday campaign, created to encourage people to go meat free one day a week, is a great way to make a difference in health and conservation and adopt a more conscious lifestyle.

History and Popularity

People all over the world have started observing Meatless Monday. But it’s not a new concept.

The recent campaign started back in 2003 as a public health initiative of The Monday Campaigns, in association with the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future.

Joan Jett loves vegetarianism. Photo: david_shankbone

Before that, America observed meatless Mondays during World War I to help ration.

Now, it’s championed by celebrities like Sir Paul McCartney and his daughters Stella and Mary, Yoko Ono, Simon Cowell, and even Oprah who hosted Michael Pollan, food activitist and author of “The Omnivore’s Dilemma”, on her show in April 2009.

Mario Batali shocked carnivorous foodies by announcing in May, 2010, that he would be joining the campaign and going meat free on Mondays.

Legislation Momentum

The movement is gaining momentum all over the world. Here are some examples:

1.) Baltimore, Maryland. In October 2009, Baltimore City Public Schools made Mondays meatless for its 82,000 students. Although the move angered some (Glen Beck, for one) school officials have reported that Monday has become the most popular lunch day and the school system has saved 20 cents per meal per student every Monday by not serving meat.

2.) San Francisco, California. In April 2010, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors passed a resolution observing Monday as Vegetarian Day, encouraging schools, restaurants, and grocery stores to offer a greater variety of meatless options.

3.) Ghent, Belgium. In May 2009, Ghent, Belgium became the first city in the world to declare a Veggie Day once a week.

Photo: Neeta_Lind

4.) Tel Aviv, Isreal. In March 2010, Tel Aviv University joined Oxford, Columbia, and the University of California, Los Angeles in bring Meat-Free Mondays to its campus.

5.) Michigan. This spring, the state of Michigan encouraged residents not to eat meat on a one-day “Meatout”.

6.) Takoma Park, Maryland. Takoma Park designated April 24-30, 2010, “Veg Week”. Many residents, including State Senator Jamie Raskin, Delegate Tom Hucker, Congresswoman Donna Edwards and Montgomery County Councilwoman Valerie Ervin, pledged to eat vegetarian for the entire week.

Why is this important, according to McCartney and Batali?

Sir Paul McCartney declares,

Having one designated meat-free day a week is actually a meaningful change that everyone can make, that goes to the heart of several important political, environmental, and ethical issues all at once…for instance it not only addresses pollution, but better health, the ethical treatment of animals, global hunger and community and political activism.

Mario Batali, who recently lost 45 pounds, “still loves meat,” according to Elizabeth Meltz, Batali’s director of sustainability. “But even he believes everything should be eaten in moderation.”

In stats

1.) By forgoing meat one day a week, our meat consumption is reduced by 15%. Cutting out meat one day a week is the equivalent to keeping your car off the road for 1,000 miles a year.

2.) The United Nations found that the meat industry produces more greenhouse gases than all the SUVs, cars, trucks, planes, and ships combined. That amounts to about 18% of all greenhouse gas emissions.

3.) If the population of the US went meatless one day a week, 12 billion gallons of gasoline would be saved per year.

4.) It takes about 300 gallons of water a day to produce a vegetarian-based diet. It takes about 4,000 gallons of water a day to produce a typical meat-based diet.

Photo: davichi

5.) According to the EPA, runoff from factory farms pollutes our rivers and lakes more than all industrial pollution sources combined.

6.) More than 1/3 of all the raw sources and fossil fuels we use in the US are utilized to raise animals for food.

7.) We eat too much meat anyways. The average American consumes 8 oz. of meat per day, 45% more than the USDA recommends. Between 1961 and 2007, the world population doubled in size, at a factor of 2.2. Meat consumption, however, quadrupled and poultry increased 10-fold.

8.) Saturated fat, found more frequently in meats than plants, is linked to multiple preventable diseases including heart disease, stroke, diabetes and various cancers.

9.) Cutting our meat consumption lessens our chances of being infected with bacterial diseases spread through mass-produced meat and reduces our exposure to antibiotics.

How to Get Involved

1.) Visit Meatless Monday’s website for more information and recipes.

2.) Check out Paul McCartney’s Meat Free Mondays campaign.

3.) Explore the huge inventory of blogs, websites, and books devoted to vegetarian/vegan cooking.

4.) Eat a wide variety of delicious vegetarian and vegan food.

5.) Check out movies like Food Inc. and books like The Omnivore’s Dilemma.

Community Connection

Have you ever tried going meat free on Mondays? If you’re a vegetarian/vegan, what reasons inspired you to give up meat? In opposition to the vegetarian lifestyle? Join the conversation.

Visit Matador’s vegetarian travel focus page for articles like 11 of the World’s Most Vegetarian-Friendly Cities.



About The Author

Nancy Harder

Nancy Harder is a freelance writer, pianist, singer, and photographer with an affinity for holistic health and observing different cultures. When not capturing paradigms and reflections through different mediums, she is exploring her practice of yoga and meditation. Check out Nancy's blog, Nancy the Gnomette.

  • Michelle Schusterman

    Awesome, awesome article, Nancy! I started thinking of meat only as an occasional side dish a few years ago and the difference has been remarkable. I love my veggie dishes!

    • Nancy Harder

      Thanks, Michelle. That’s a great way to think about meat, for sure. I definitely want your fave veg recipes to try out. :)

  • lisa

    love the article Nancy! I recently started trying to quit eating meat on Friday, now I’m inspired to add Monday’s to the list! :)

    • Nancy Harder

      Thanks, Lisa! Isn’t it amazing how much going without meat for one day a week does for the environment?

  • Eva

    Great to see the spread of Meatless Monday events worldwide, Nancy!

    I’m in a funny position since I moved to the Yukon. I was raised vegetarian from birth, added some small amounts of fish and chicken to my diet in my high school/university years, and started to explore a lot more seafood in my post-student travels. But until the last year, I’d never even tried red meat.

    Now, since moving to Whitehorse in November, I’ve eaten muskox, caribou and moose – but I’ve still never had a normal hamburger or steak. Local wild game is big here, and it’s viewed by the Yukon’s extremely environmentally conscious residents as a much better option than factory-farmed products – meat or veggie – shipped in from 1000s of miles away. It can’t be sold commercially, so to get your hands on it you have to hunt it yourself or know someone who will.

    Anyway. I still prefer to cook vegetarian myself (27 year habit, y’know) and I rarely order red meat in restaurants, but I’ve found their arguments re: the sustainability of local wild game quite convincing. It’s a funny experience for me to be de-vegetarianizing just as it’s really gaining prominence again.

    • Nancy Harder

      Thanks for sharing your experience, Eva. I can totally see how eating wild game in Whitehorse is a way better ecological option than factory-farmed meat shipped from miles away.

      And you’re right about the vegetarian movement gaining prominence again. I’ve been really shocked over the last 5 years how big it has gotten, especially in the vegan community.

  • Gabriela Garcia

    Great post, Nancy! I can relate to Eva’s comment above. My mom is a vegetarian so I grew up without eating meat. Although I eat seafood, I just naturally gravitate towards cooking and eating vegetarian. I love that mainstream chefs like Mario Batali are reducing their meat consumption. Such a change from the days when I was the kid with the wierd lunch that nobody wanted to trade with :)

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