An Initiative We Should All Support
If we are judged by the company we keep, we are in good company. Vegetarians in Paradise bedfellows turn out to be an impressive group of organizations interested in public health.
The roster of organizations includes Columbia University Mailman School of Health, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, and Syracuse University Newhouse School of Public Communications. They're all on board to promote Meatless Monday, a campaign to improve national health and benefit the environment. We would like to urge our readers to join us in bringing this message to the attention of the public.
Our first effort in joining the campaign began with in a letter to the President of Kaiser Permanente Southern California asking his organization to join the Meatless Monday drive. In coming weeks we plan to contact community and school leaders in the Los Angeles/Southern California area to urge their participation.
How it all started
Since then school districts on both coasts have signed on to the campaign. Baltimore City Public School System with 85,000 students was the first school district in the United States to begin each week with a Meatless Monday.
On the West Coast, Oakland Unified School District joined the movement with 28,000 students in their elementary and middle schools. Each school offers fresh produce at breakfast and lunch and holds farmers markets and cooking classes so students can share this knowledge with their families.
San Francisco became the first city in the United States to proclaim a Meatless Monday, even though they call it "Vegetarian Day." The San Francisco Board of Supervisors encourages restaurants, schools, and grocers to offer plant-based options. When it comes to being the first city worldwide to declare a meatless day, San Francisco loses to Ghent, Belgium, that was a year ahead in establishing "Veggie Days." While the their meatless day focus is the same, Ghent has selected Thursdays to implement their program. Sao Paulo, Brazil, and Tel Aviv, Israel, have also chosen to follow Ghent's lead.
Two University of California campuses have approached the meatless day in different ways. UC Davis has set a goal of convincing 1,000 students and employees to forgo flesh on the first day of the week. UC Santa Barbara began a Monday plan to remove beef from all of its cafeterias and all meat from one cafeteria.
Even Al Gore, who initially refused to recognize the global pollution caused by animal agriculture, now includes Meatless Monday as one of the Top Twelve Things You Can Do for a Better World. Although he ignored animal agriculture in his original An Inconvenient Truth, he now says, "Try Meatless Mondays. Skipping meat one day per week could save over 35,000 gallons of water. Cutting meat out of your diet entirely would help save 5,000 lbs. of carbon emissions per year."
Meat industry fights back
The American Meat Institute, the Animal Agriculture Alliance, the Missouri Beef Council, and the editors of Pork Magazine have all been in attack mode to oppose Meatless Mondays. The American Meat Institute has written a public letter to Baltimore's City Schools CEO Andrés Alonso saying their organization was "disturbed" by the initiative and that "meat and poultry may be the only significant source of protein" in the Baltimore kids' diets. An editorial in Pork Magazine declared, "The Baltimore school officials have taken it upon themselves to relieve dietitians and nutritionists of part of their duties, at least for the first day of the school week." The Animal Agriculture Alliance joined the fray by urging citizens who were shocked by Meatless Mondays to contact Baltimore Schools CEO Alonso.
We can join the battle
For those who need talking or writing points to emphasize, we offer these suggestions.
We encourage you to take an active role in promoting Meatless Monday instead of passively waiting for others to gain success in moving this issue forward. Many of our readers are aware of more humane reasons for people to adopt a Meatless Monday, especially the cruelty concerns that motivate many of us to be vegetarians. We feel the general public can be approached more readily by emphasizing the health and environmental issues.
Keep us informed by sending us emails telling of your efforts. We will gladly share your successes with our readers and promise to enlighten you with additional information about our efforts to encourage more people and organizations to adopt Meatless Monday.