“Nothing will benefit human health and increase chances for survival of life
on Earth as much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet.”
June 12th is World Meat-Free Day, aimed at encouraging people to not eat meat for the day.
As the organizers explain:
“We’re asking YOU to go meat-free for just one day…so you can see not only the impact it can have on your health and the environment but also how delicious and easy it can be so that you consider going meat-free more often in the future.”
As followers of a plant-based diet, we completely understand this rationale! So together let’s explore all the reasons that celebrating World Meat-Free Day is a good idea.
The Idea of a Meat-Free Day Is Not New
Meat-free days have been part of many traditions for thousands of years.
For example, certain religions (like Catholicism and Anglicanism) teach believers to avoid eating meat on Fridays. English laws used to go so far as to prohibit butchers from slaughtering animals or selling meat on Friday or Saturday.
Meat-free days have also been mandated during times of hardship and war. One example was the American and Canadian “Meatless Tuesday” during World War I.
Today meat-free days are normally organized with the goal to improve human health, as well as animal and planet welfare.
Meat-free days are endorsed by city councils in countries around the globe including Belgium, Brazil, Germany, and South Africa.
In the US, Los Angeles has declared all Mondays to be “Meatless Monday,” where schools serve vegetarian fare and adults are encouraged to eat meat-free dishes. And this fall, the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) will introduce a pilot program to offer a daily vegan meal option at selected schools.
And even though the idea for Meatless Monday started in the US in 2003, it inspired Sir Paul McCartney to follow suit by promoting the movement in the UK.
In 2009, McCartney and his daughters Mary and Stella created a non-profit organization called Meat Free Monday that raises awareness about how meat consumption negatively affects the environment and encourages people to preserve precious natural resources and improve their health by having at least one meat-free day each week.
The McCartney non-profit has focused its attention on children, asking schools to offer plant-based meal options at least once a week so that students can develop healthful eating habits at a young age. Their efforts have paid off handsomely; more than 1,000 UK schools have now adopted Meat Free Monday.
Why No Meat Makes Sense
As we discussed in our blog post Eat Like You Care – How Your Diet Affects More Than Just You, switching to a plant-based diet can have a huge positive impact on your health and the well-being of the planet.
To begin with, research shows that a shift from the animal-based Standard American Diet (SAD) to a predominantly plant-based diet can prevent and even reverse chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, and type 2 diabetes.
Other benefits of adopting a meat-free, plant-based diet include:
- Reduces Cholesterol and Heart Disease Risk: Consuming saturated fats (which primarily come from meat and dairy) raises the level of cholesterol in your blood and your risk of heart disease. Plant-based diets are naturally lower in saturated fat.
- Lowers Cancer Risk: As we discussed in our Blue Zones article about Loma Linda, research on the community of Seventh Day Adventists (who, for the most part, do not eat meat) shows a clear link between a vegan diet and a decreased risk for all cancer types.
- Diminishes the Likelihood of Type 2 Diabetes: An American Diabetes Association study found that people following a vegetarian diet had a decreased risk of metabolic syndrome, a cluster of risk factors that are linked to type 2 diabetes, stroke, and heart disease.
- Helps You Lose Weight: A large five-year study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics in 2013 showed that people who do not eat meat have a lower average BMI than meat eaters.
- Lowers Blood Pressure: According to a Public Health Nutrition study, vegetarians and vegans experience less hypertension.
The benefits of a ‘no meat’ policy have a halo effect on the planet as well:
- Smaller Carbon Footprint: According to the UN, nearly 14.5 percent of the greenhouse gas emissions are generated by the meat and dairy industries.
- Save Water: Between 1,800 to 2,500 gallons of water are needed to produce just ONE pound of beef, versus the mere 108 gallons required for a pound of corn or 138 gallons for a pound of wheat. A switch from a meat-based to a vegetarian diet reduces your water footprint by 60 percent while adopting a plant-based (vegan) diet cuts it by 90 percent.
- Reduce Fossil Fuel Dependency: It takes about 2.2 calories of fossil fuel energy to produce one calorie of plant-based protein, but 40 calories for every calorie of feedlot beef!
World Meat-Free Day is a wonderful time to prepare a yummy plant-based meal.
To help you ‘imagine the possibilities,’ here is Dreena Burton’s recipe for No-Fu (Lentil) Love Loaf.
It has been an old-time favorite at our house.
And it makes eating no meat a no brainer!
Happy World Meat-Free Day to all!
Note: This post was published in 2017, at which time this event was called World Meat-Free Day, however, in 2018, it was changed to World Meat-Free Week.