Meatless Mondays

Many of the objectives set down by environmentalists and advocates of public health can be achieved by simply cleaning up the meat production process.

Dov Lipman and Haimovich370 (photo credit: Benji Goldberg)
Dov Lipman and Haimovich370
(photo credit: Benji Goldberg)
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 week.
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 Knesset.
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 fall.
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.
Lowering meat 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 survival option.
Livestock rearing, meat production and restaurants that serve meat and poultry provide incomes for hundreds of millions of people around the world.
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 industry.
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 releases.
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 it.
However, many of the objectives set down by environmentalists and advocates of public health can be achieved by simply cleaning up the meat production process.