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Posted 9 July 2009
The practice of designating one day a week as Meat-Free is becoming a global phenomenon. And no wonder when the environmental, human health and animal welfare benefits are so substantial. In May, Ghent City Council in Belgium attracted worldwide media and public attention when it announced that every Thursday would be meat-free. The initiative aims to encourage the city’s inhabitants to reduce their contribution to climate change and boost their health simultaneously. In the UK and Australia, Sir Paul McCartney has just launched Meat-Free Monday with the same objective. Meanwhile, in the USA, the Great American Meatout has grown annually. And in Israel the owners of a food magazine have launched a similar campaign - they are encouraging restaurants to provide a special vegetarian menu on Mondays. Given that climate change is one of the biggest challenges we face, going meat-free one day a week is a simple action that each of us can take, and one that will produce a reduction in emissions of dangerous greenhouse gases.
Farming and slaughtering animals is now recognised as a significant contributor to today's greatest environmental problems, including climate change. According to the United Nations, breeding and killing animals for food is responsible for 18 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions - more than the entire transport sector worldwide. This is mostly due to the fact that animal farming is the number one source of methane - a greenhouse gas that is more than 21 times more powerful at trapping heat than carbon dioxide (CO2). It is produced during the digestive processes of sheep, cattle and other ruminants and is released from their untreated manure. Because methane has a much shorter atmospheric lifetime than CO2, reducing or eliminating meat from our diets will result in an almost immediate drop in dangerous emissions.
The damage from farming animals is also seen in the Amazon where CO2 is released when huge areas of forest are destroyed to provide grazing for cows and to grow crops to feed billions of farmed animals. Cattle farming is the biggest threat to the remaining Amazon rainforest and the single biggest cause of deforestation in the world.
Climate change aside, growing food to feed us directly - rather than first passing it through animals - is far more efficient in terms of the amount of land, water, energy and labour required. In a hungry world with limited resources, the world’s harvest should be fed to people rather than to farmed animals.
Going meat-free is simple, delicious and healthy too. You will lower your risk of developing diet-related illnesses such as heart disease, diabetes and some cancers. So why not start with Meat-Free Monday?
Animal Aid is encouraging UK city councils to follow Ghent's example and declare a weekly meat-free day. To support this initiative we have produced a number of resources, which you can use to influence your city councillors. Visit the Meat-Free Monday web page to download a template letter to councillors along with a letter to the editor of your local newspaper.