About a decade ago, a broad array of American public-health advocates, animal
welfare activists and environmentalists led by veteran Madison Avenue ad man Sid
Lerner, launched a campaign that calls on carnivores to give up meat one day a
The movement adopted the catchy slogan “Meatless Mondays” – which
harkens back to the World War I era “Food will win the war” campaign that also
included “Wheatless Wednesday.”
Gradually, meatless Mondays have spread
to other countries. In 2009, the city of Ghent in Belgium became the first
European city to endorse a meat-free day. Sir Paul McCartney has pushed a meat
free Monday in England.
The Meatless Monday campaign – in its Hebrew
equivalent “Sheni Tzimhoni” – has also reached Israel.
Last November, a
list of restaurants agreed to delete the meat from their Monday menus and
attempts were being made to encourage state institutions – including public
schools and government offices – to get on board.
Now the American-raised
MK Dov Lipman and former Channel 10 News anchorwoman and health activist Miki
Haimovich are working to establish a Meatless Mondays Caucus in the
According to a Knesset Research and Information Center document,
Israel is in 12th place in national consumption of meat, with a yearly average
of 18 kg. per person. And Lipman would like to see that number
Increasing awareness about the potential environmental and health
dangers of eating meat is definitely a positive move. But Meatless Mondays
should be part of a wider campaign to encourage thinking about more
environmentally friendly ways of raising livestock.
consumption is just one element.
Eating too much meat is, after all, a
symptom of the economically comfortable West, which has the luxury of overeating
or, alternatively, choosing to refrain from meat and dairy products out of
global warming considerations. But for societies in the dry-lands of East Africa
or around the Arctic, where crops cannot survive, a meat-based diet is the only
Livestock rearing, meat production and restaurants that
serve meat and poultry provide incomes for hundreds of millions of people around
Also, arguments used in favor of Meatless Mondays have often
been exaggerated. For instance, many activists, including Lipman, continue to
quote from a 2006 report entitled “Livestock’s Long Shadow,” published by the UN
Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), which found that 18 percent of
greenhouse gas emissions– a little more than all of the world’s cars, trains and
planes combined – are attributable to the livestock industry. UN researchers
later admitted, however, that skewed methods of computation overstated the meat
industry’s contribution to the greenhouse effect relative to the transport
Also, a new UN FAO report released last week, based on new
guidelines from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, showed that
emissions associated with livestock added up to 7.7 gigatons of carbon dioxide
equivalent gases per year, or 14.5% of all human-caused greenhouse
More importantly, the new UN report showed that wider adoption
of better practices and technologies in feeding, health and husbandry, and
manure management – as well as greater use of underused technologies such as
biogas generators and energy-saving devices – could help the global livestock
sector cut its outputs of global warming gases by up to 30% by becoming more
efficient and reducing energy waste.
And this can be achieved without all
the negative side effects of a meat boycott that lowers production and results
in layoffs and salary cuts.
To the extent that they promote personal
health and increase awareness of environmental issues, imported initiatives like
Meatless Mondays are a positive addition to Israeli culture, and we applaud
However, many of the objectives set down by environmentalists and
advocates of public health can be achieved by simply cleaning up the meat
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