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August 3, 2010 > Ohlone Humane Society: A meaty matter

Ohlone Humane Society: A meaty matter

By Nancy Lyon

To put it politely, recently there has been a lot of differing and emotional online opinions voiced regarding the movement to bring healthy meals to not only America's elementary schools but to more than 30 prestigious U.S. universities. It appears that questioning our eating habits is activating to some people. However, eating less meat is a long overdue concept that has caught fire internationally and is spreading to many countries.

Given the name "Meatless Mondays," in America it aims to address this country's growing problem with childhood obesity and unhealthy school menu options. It is viewed as an important part of the solution to a very serious national problem and Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack of the USDA which oversees the National School Lunch Program is being asked to make Meatless Monday mandatory in public schools.

Given the facts, this is an important move to protect our children but what does this have to do with animal welfare? Actually, a whole lot because our over-dependency on meat-laden meals is all part of a downward spiral that not only affects public health, but animal welfare and ultimately the survival of planet Earth.

Meatless Mondays is a project of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and the Columbia University School of Public Health in association with twenty-seven other public health schools. The campaign is focused on convincing the world not to eat chickens, pigs, and other animals just one day per week. Johns Hopkins, Columbia, the American Dietetic Association, and dozens of other health organizations argue that the less meat you eat, the better off you'll be, and if you're smart, it's advice well worth considering especially since it's a reasonable step in support of personal health, the environment, and living with greater awareness of the results of our choices.

Aside from the horrors of "farmed animals" - those beings that seldom qualify for much consideration except for their gastronomic appeal - forced to live in cruel factory farming conditions only to die in unspeakable conditions in slaughterhouses of this country, there's a slew of reasons to join the growing campaign. These include the fact that eating meat leads to heart disease, cancer, diabetes, obesity, and lethargy.

It's a movement closely allied with the philosophy that helped produce the challenging book and movie, "Food, Inc." by filmmaker Robert Kenner. It was stated on Oprah "...we don't realize it when we sit down to eat, but that is our most profound engagement in the rest of nature... To the extent that we push meat a little bit to the side and move vegetables to the center of our diet, we're also going to be a lot healthier..."

If we switch from eating pigs to eating beans and grains for just one day per week, it would stop as much global warming as if everyone in the U.S. shifted to ultra-efficient Toyota hybrids. According to research, this is the weekly equivalent of using 12 billion fewer gallons of gasoline. An obvious conclusion would be that if we all stopped eating animals completely and shifted to a plant-based diet, we would save 84 billion gallons of gas per week and the troubles that go with that kind of consumption. Environmentally, all meat requires exponentially more resources to produce than grains and beans. Meatless Monday offers a step forward toward the ideal of eating without consuming animals daily.

Wisely, creators of this movement are asking for less consumption from their audience - just a few brief hours of "forgoing the spring lamb for the spring radish," not a signed commitment to a lifetime on a plant-based diet... and it's not really that hard to make a change one day a week."

Will a Meatless Monday cut into needed protein requirements? Most Americans consume more than enough protein and the vegetable kingdom is also a rich source of protein. In fact, you don't need to eat meat to get complete protein. While meat is a rich source of protein, it is not necessary every day.

Going meatless once a week may reduce your risk of chronic preventable conditions such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and obesity. It can also help reduce your carbon footprint and save precious resources (i.e. fresh water and fossil fuel).

If you choose to go meatless just one day a week, the campaign suggests adding healthy, environmentally friendly meat-free alternatives to your diet and grass-fed, hormone-free, locally-raised meat options whenever possible.

Health Benefits of a plant-based diet:
* Limits Cancer risk
* Reduces the risk of heart disease by 19%
* Fights diabetes - research suggests that higher consumption of red and processed meat increases the risk of type 2 diabetes
* Helps curb obesity.
* A longer life
* Improves diet and health

Environmental Benefits
* Reduces your carbon footprint. The United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization estimates the meat industry generates nearly one-fifth of man-made greenhouse gas emissions . . . far more than transportation.
* Minimizes water usage. Water needs of livestock are tremendous, far above those of vegetables or grains.
* Helps reduce fossil fuel dependency. On average, about 40 calories of fossil fuel energy go into every calorie of feed lot beef in the U.S. Compared to the 2.2 calories of fossil fuel energy needed to produce one calorie of plant-based protein.

Meatless Mondays is a non-profit initiative in association with the Johns Hopkins' Bloomberg School of Public Health to revive an American tradition that began with World War II, spearheading a broad-based grassroots movement that spans all borders and demographic groups. Their goal is to help you reduce your meat consumption by 15% in order to improve personal health and the health of the planet.


For in-depth facts and delicious plant-based recipes:
Meatless Mondays official website: ttp://www.meatoutmondays.org/index.php
Food, Inc: http://www.foodincmovie.com/about-the-film.php
Bestseller: Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer
http://www.eatinganimals.com/

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