Meat Free Monday Goes Mainstream

Of course, by 'mainstream' I mean that celebrities are now endorsing the campaign. Paul, Stella and Mary McCartney today launched a new website, Meat Free Monday, which encourages everyone to, yes, you guessed it, give up meat on Mondays. Other famous names weighing in include Kevin Spacey, Sheryl Crow, Woody Harrelson, Alec Baldwin, Ricky Gervais and Chris Martin.

The idea of cutting back on meat isn't a new one: think of rationing during the wars, due to short supplies. But this time it's out of choice--and for different reasons. By shunning meat one day of the week, it's thought that we can improve our health and reduce stress on the environment. Statistics include:

*Meat makes 1.4 per cent of global GDP but 18 per cent of greenhouse gases.

*Forty calories of fossil fuel energy go into producing a calorie of beef, but 2.2 calories for one calorie of plant protein.

*Livestock production uses 8 per cent of the world's fresh water.

*Belching from cows emits vast amounts of methane, which has 21 times the greenhouse effect of carbon dioxide.

*One billion people are overweight, mostly in the West, where meat consumption is higher. Vegetarians tend to be slimmer.

*High levels of (red) meat consumption has been linked with certain cancers.

US-based campaigns include Meatless Monday, a non-profit run by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. The eponymous website includes recipes that would make any hardcore carnivore turn veggie fulltime, not just one day of the week, and also endorses the work of Washington Post journalist Kim O'Donnel, who writes a Meatless Monday column as part of her blog, A Mighty Appetite.

But I won't hold my breath for any US city to follow the example of Ghent, in Belgium, where Thursdays are meat free: every restaurant in town must have a vegetarian dish on the menu, and some are fully veggie every Thursday. From September, Ghent's schools will make a meat-free meal the "default" option every Thursday, although parents can insist on meat for their kids.


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