As we approach the New Year, many of us are considering changes we can make to improve ourselves and help make the world a better place. There are so many important issues and sometimes it’s hard to know where to start. Thankfully, there’s something easy we can do every Monday, at mealtime specifically, that will make a world of difference: participating in Meatless Monday.
What is Meatless Monday? It’s a concept as simple as the name suggests: go meat-free one day a week. Why Meatless Monday? That, too, is easy: the environment, your health and animals.
First, the environment: Animal agriculture uses vast amounts of precious resources, like water and land. The United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization has stated that the livestock sector is “one of the top two or three most significant contributors to the most serious environmental problems, at every scale from local to global.” So it’s no surprise that leading environmental groups like the Sierra Club and the Environmental Defense Fund advocate eating less meat. Oakland’s Energy and Climate Action Plan encourages residents to “Eat meat at one less meal each week.”
Eating more meat-free meals can also extend our longevity: a growing body of research indicates eating more plant-based lowers our risk of chronic disease.
As important as anything, Meatless Monday helps animals. More than nine billion animals are raised for food each year, most of them currently suffering in factory farms – where relentless consolidation has eliminated traditional husbandry in favor of inhumane confinement. Animals by the tens of thousands are crammed together, unable to breathe fresh air or see sunlight until they’re sent to slaughter. Breeding pigs are virtually immobilized in gestation crates for much of their lives, unable to even turn around. Laying hens confined in barren battery cages, the source of 95 percent of our eggs, are given less space per bird than the screen of an iPad — for their entire lives.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. To help improve our dead-end agriculture system while doing something good for ourselves and the planet, we at The Humane Society of the United States encourage people to eat more meat-free-meals by participating in Meatless Mondays. The HSUS promotes the three R’s in food choices: reducing our consumption of animals; refining our dietary choices by switching to products that meet high animal welfare standards; and replacing animals in the diet with plant-based options. If every American participated in Meatless Monday, more than a billion animals would be spared the suffering all too common inside factory farms.
Not surprisingly, a growing number of schools, cafeterias and communities are signing up as participants in Meatless Mondays. Increasing numbers of family farmers also are voicing their support as as a means to achieve a more sustainable, community based agricultural system before it’s too late. With the rise of industrial-style consolidation, more and more animals are being raised on fewer farms with the result being that factory farming has harmed animals, farmers, and the environment alike.
Thankfully, it’s never been easier to eat with a conscience. The Oakland Unified School District is participating in Meatless Monday; local restaurants like Italian Colors, Mezze and Boca Nova offer Meatless Monday menus; and we have an abundance of restaurants that offer meat-free fare daily. You can find it all here: Indian, Ethiopian, Chinese, Japanese, Mexican and more. If world cuisine’s not your thing, there are plenty of veggie burgers and hot dogs to go around in Oakland.
In 2013, I urge my fellow Oaklanders to pledge to go meat-free one day a week. Participating in Meatless Monday is a simple change that can have a profound and positive impact for our health, animals and the planet.
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