You Tell Us: Meatless Monday, a resolution that can make a world of difference

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.

Kristie Middleton is the Outreach Manager for Farm Animal Protection at The Humane Society of the United States and a member of Oakland Veg. Follow her on Twitter.

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You Tell Us is Oakland North’s community Op-Ed page, featuring opinion pieces submitted by readers on Oakland-related topics. Have something to say? Send essays of 500-1,000 words to staff@oaklandnorth.net. We’d love to hear from you!

All essays reflect the opinions of their authors, and not of the Oakland North staff or the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism. Oakland North reserves the right to edit submissions for length, clarity and spelling/grammar. Oakland North does not pay for the the publication of opinion pieces. You Tell Us submissions must be written in civil and non-offensive language. We do not publish hate speech, libelous material, unsubstantiated allegations or rumors, or personal attacks on individuals or groups.

 

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11 Comments

  1. Dan

    Meat and animal products are essential to human health. The problem with comventional animal products is how they’re produced: on factory farms. Disgusting conditions abound here.

    Instead of “meatless Mondays,” go out and buy some pastured, free-range, grass fed food products and make a statement while supporting oakland: Farmer Joes on fruitvale sells raw milk from claravale dairy. Marin Sun Farms on college ave sells plenty of pastured products. Organic pastures has a stand at the grand lake farmers market every Saturday. You can also buy pastured eggs here from a variety of sellers that are raised in a healthy, responsible way.

    • Andy

      We don’t need to eat meat every day and it’s better for our health if we don’t. By reducing the amount of meat by even one day a week, we can do better for the environment than buying ALL of our food locally according to a Carnegie Mellon study. Going meatless on Monday is a simple way we can all make a difference.

    • Phil

      You do not need to eat any meat products. There is no fiber in animal products and no cholesterol in plant products. Athletes like Venus Williams, Carl Lewis, and Arian Foster of the NFL are more than enough proof that you can be very strong and healthy without eating flesh. Google “vegan body builders” if you don’t believe me. The only vitamin you can’t get from plants is b12….any easy fix with a vitamin pill.

    • Ron

      Balance, people, balance.

      Americans eat too much meat for our health and environmental impact. As other areas get richer, they are doing the same thing (see a Chinese wedding banquet, for example). Cutting back is a great strategy for many reasons, even if you don’t go full vegetarian.

      On the other hand, there’s no excuse for pushing veganism other than a feeling of unjustified self-righteousness. Animals die of natural causes, such as injury, sickness, and predators. What is the difference if it’s a hunter instead of a coyote?

      No honey either? But you drive a car, which kills tons of insects. Bees make honey even if we didn’t exist. Bears eat honey. It’s pretty simple.

      I’m all for a move away from industrial farming and reduced meat consumption in general. But please leave your pickiness or self-righteousness at the door. Just living a modern life is enough to kill animals, so accept it.

    • E'ville Eye

      Dan is right. Meat isn’t the problem, industrialized food is. Agriculture has been worse for the planet than any single thing in human history (uh, slavery anyone?) unless you consider feeding humans and allowing us to overpopulate good for the planet?

    • Meat and animal products are not required for human health. Half of all humans are vegetarians. Dan ought to check his facts, rather than spew misinformation based on ignorance. The facts are well…the facts. The healthiest people we have ever met are ALL vegetarians. If meat and animal products are essential for human health, how are we in perfect health after more than twenty years as vegetarians. Every doctor we have ever seen has been impressed to astounded with our health, right down to the quality and characteristics of our blood.
      Dan’s first sentence is a harmful and preposterous falsehood. Phil has it right. Healthier human bodies are built and fed with high quality, plant-based nutrition.

  2. ACB

    This is very cool. When we buy a piece of meat or a jug of milk, we are paying someone to hurt and kill an animal on our behalf. We’re also paying for heart disease, obesity, and increased risks of cancer and diabetes. Buying “free range” or organic isn’t feasible for most consumers. But replaning a beef burger with a veggie burger on Monday nights, or having a hummus sandwich for lunch (packed with protein) instead of egg salad (packed with cholesterol) is easy and cheap. This is a great idea!

    • Molly

      Great point, but absent from this argument is a mention of the abhorrent conditions for the humans that work in large-scale meat productions, not just the animals. A slaughterhouse is one of the most dangerous places in which to work, it usually relies on migrant laborers (housed in what can only be called a company town, where police raids are frequent), and it really follows OSHA guidelines. An important point to make, I think, any time you try to argue for lower meat consumption.

  3. Mary

    In 2010, after completing a course in “plant based nutrition) offered by Dr. Colin Campbell in conjunction with eCornell online, I wrote a lengthy e-mail to our AT LARGE Councilwoman Rebecca Kaplan re the need (as I saw it) to establish a “Meatless Monday” in Oakland,. I suggested that she might take the lead in establishing on and explained how I believed that this would be to the interest of the majority of Oaklanders health-wise and environmentally.

    After a few weeks I followed up my message with a call to her office and spoke with a representative (Justin?) who explained that the councilwoman gets a LOT Of calls, etc., and must prioritize them, and (as I understood it) my call for such “Meatless Monday” sanctioned by our city council might not be one of them. The person I spoke with promised to get back to me, but I never heard back either then or following subsequent followup messages that I left on VM.

    I believe that the issue of large scale animal farming (which has such a devastating impact on our environment) deserves at least some attention on the part of those we elect to represent us. Per my reading of the UN Report entitled LIVESTOCK’S LONG SHADOW and a more recent analysis of that report by the World Bank, such industrialized farming of animals has more of an impact (51%) on global warming than all forms of transportation combined. Yet, we barely discuss it. Why?

    I encourage everyone to call Councilwoman Kaplan as well as other council members (and our mayor) to discuss this issue with them. After all, San Francisco, Berkeley, Los Angeles and Santa Cruz have Meatless Mondays. Why not Oakland? Why so much silence in the face of the environmental and health problems that arise from such a wasteful (and inhumane) system of farming animals?

    Recently, it was reported that Methane, a major by-product of such animal farming has a half life of 9 to 15 years. This is promising information inasmuch as it suggests that restructuring of the way in which we “farm” and consume animals could possibly produce a significant impact on global warming.

    Our next step in this direction is to start a public discussion, and, to my mind the logical place to begin such a discussion is with the Oakland City Council. I suggest calls and e-mails not just to Rebecca Kaplan (one of the more progressive reps on the Council) but with our new “environmentalist’ First District Councilman, Dan Kalb (from the Sierra Club) and others. Of course, her honor, the mayor needs to hear from us too.

    Phone #’s are: Kaplan–510-238-7008, KALB–510-238-7001, and Mayor Quan–238-3141. (Other councilmembers’ numbers can be found in the phone directory. I did not find any of them listed in the City’s online directory, however, although they used to be listed.)

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  5. Gram-Gram

    At lunch, I have to eat whatever the Senior Center is serving that day….. Not a problem for the rest of the day.

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