Animal Law Committee Supports Meatless Mondays

The New York City Council has introduced proposed resolution Res. 0551, which would recognize “Meatless Monday,” a national and international campaign that encourages people to enjoy meat-free meals on Mondays to improve their health and to promote animal welfare, wildlife protection and environmental and agricultural sustainability. The resolution seeks to raise awareness of the efforts already underway in restaurants, schools and cafeterias across the city to provide meat-free meals on Mondays, and seeks to expand participation in those efforts citywide. The Meatless Monday campaign began during World War I as a nationwide rationing effort, and was revived during World War II. In 2003, the organization “The Monday Campaigns” revived the program as a way of improving public health, promoting animal welfare and supporting environmentally sustainable agricultural practices. Since then, “Meatless Monday” proclamations and resolutions have been passed in several U.S. cities, including Los Angeles, Philadelphia, South Miami and Washington, D.C. Approximately 40 schools in New York City already participate in Meatless Monday, including public, private and charter schools at all grade levels. Many New York City colleges and universities have also joined the campaign, including Barnard College, Brooklyn Law School, Columbia University, Fordham University, LaGuardia Community College and Manhattan College. Restaurant owners in New York City including Bill Telepan, Mario Batali, John Fraser and Marisa May likewise participate by offering vegetarian options. According to a 2013 article in Nation’s Restaurant News, many restaurateurs find that Meatless Mondays can be beneficial to business by enticing people to dine out on Monday, a day of the week that can be slow for business.

Benefits for Animals

Almost ten billion animals are slaughtered each year in this country for food. A large percentage of the animals raised for food come from Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (commonly known as factory farms), where inhumane practices, such as extreme confinement, are common. By eating less meat, consumers can reduce the number of animals slaughtered each year and possibly have an impact on the number of animals treated inhumanely before slaughter.

Personal Health Benefits

Going meatless one day a week can reduce the risk of chronic preventable conditions like cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and obesity. A plant-based diet can also offer health benefits in the prevention and treatment of diseases such as heart disease, obesity, hypertension and type 2 diabetes. The Meatless Monday campaign chose Monday because several studies have suggested that people are more likely to adopt other healthy behaviors on Monday than on any other day. According to the Johns Hopkins Meatless Monday Project, which provides technical assistance and scientific expertise to the national Meatless Monday campaign, the Surgeon General’s report Healthy People 2010 “specifically called for a 15% reduction in saturated fat in the American diet. Since saturated fat in the diet is almost exclusively of animal origin and one day of the week is just under 15% of the week, the campaign began by encouraging people to refrain from eating meat one day a week to help reach this goal.” The 2015 report of the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, the nation’s dietary advisory panel, likewise states that “the U.S. population should be encouraged and guided to dietary patterns that are . . . lower in red and processed meat.” The Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee issues this report every five years to reflect its updated recommendations to the Department of Agriculture and Department of Health and Human Services, and the report informs the Dietary Guidelines developed by those agencies. Meatless Monday is an easy and efficient way to encourage New Yorkers to reduce their meat intake, in line with these recommendations.

Benefits for the Environment

A plant-based diet benefits the environment in several ways. For one, it requires fewer resources and causes less pollution than an animal-based diet. Cutting down on meat consumption can also help limit one’s carbon footprint and save resources like fresh water, because the water usage for raising animals for food is much greater than it is for growing vegetables and grains. According to a 2006 report of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the animal agriculture sector contributes an estimated 18 percent of global emissions of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide. More recently, the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (discussed above) urged consumers to consider the environmental footprint of their food. The Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee recommends eating less red and processed meat, as the raising of animals for food is a leading cause of deforestation, biodiversity loss, and fresh water use, in addition to being a major source of the methane emissions that contribute significantly to climate change.