Why you should consider ditching meat one day a week
A few good reasons to try Meat-free Mondays
Quite frankly, the rubbish state of our environment is enough to send you to the corner of the room with your head in your hands, rocking and mumbling to yourself about single-use straws and carbon miles. In the brave new world of 2023, we’re no stranger to an eco-induced panic attack.
Unlike generations gone by, we’re burdened by the costs of our consumer choices and the damage they reap on the planet. Frivolous items of party balloons and plastic wrap are wrought with guilt and we often leave the store chastising ourselves for impulsive purchases that will ultimately end up in landfill or, worse, choking a turtle.
It’s difficult to reconcile the pleasures and convenience of our modern lives with meaningful, positive impacts we can personally make. But while it’s important for us to repeatedly evaluate where we spend our money, we can do without the hand-wringing and pervasive guilt. There are good, small and immediate changes we can make that will lead to a better world and they don’t have to mean missing out.
You might have heard about meat-free Monday, plant-based diets or flexitarian diets. They all purport health and environmental benefits just by minimising the amount of meat you intake each week. These ideas can be stepping stones to, perhaps, more dedicated meat avoidance, or simply a way to have your (beef) cake and eat it, too. Even without looking into the associated benefits of ditching the animal protein one day a week, it makes common sense. Afterall, everything in moderation, right?
It’s not only the environment that gets a break when you swap pork for pulse or beef for burghul, it’s your body, too. And no, you don’t have to be a militant vegan, waifish breatharian (yup, it exists), or even a devoted vegetarian to harvest the good from plants. By adopting a flexitarian approach or a meat-free day, you’ll make a meaningful difference.
But you need real facts to sign on. So here are three solid reasons why you should consider adding a spacer day between regular meat eating.
Animal agriculture contributes a lot to greenhouse gas emissions.
The UN estimates that livestock emissions make up to 14 per cent (in Australia, it’s 13 per cent) of all man made greenhouse gases. Ouf! That’s a lot. And it’s not just carbon dioxide, but also methane, which over 100 years, is far more damaging than CO2. Of this, beef is by far the worst, which on the high-impact side of the scale produces up to 15kg of emissions per serving. Comparably, beans produce close to zero per serving. Yes, beans, beans the magical fruit, the more you eat the less cows toot (sorry, it had to be done).
It takes a lot of the planet’s resources, too.
Apart from emissions, raising livestock depletes resources, such as biodiverse land, energy and water. Up to one-third of the earth’s land is used for livestock production and almost 70 per cent of its fresh water. But to be fair to bovine et al, it’s not just meat that’s the problem, if you eat a chocolate bar that comes from a deforested rainforest, such as in West Africa, you’re also eating a high impact food. So be mindful of where all your food comes from and, remember, local and seasonal is best, no matter what you’re eating.
In terms of abstaining from meat, though, you can make a measurable difference. According flexitarian advocacy group, Meat Free Monday, switching out meat just one day a week for one year can save 2.98 tennis courts of rainforest, 608.62m2 of marine reserve and 789.25 bathtubs of water. So just imagine if everyone adopted a day off from meat.
You’ll do your body a solid and (maybe) live longer.
It’s no newsflash that a diet heavy in red and processed meats is not a recipe for health. There’s a reason (or rather, many) that medical professionals advocate for a diet rich in plants and grains. Among them are proven benefits such as a lowered risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity and certain cancers. More plant fibres and less meat also help gut bacteria to live their best lives, which extends to you, naturally. And there is growing evidence that skipping meat regularly has positive effects on osteoarthritis, mental health and period pain. According to Meat Free Monday, a person who abstains from processed meats in one day could add 46-or-so minutes to their lifespan. Although that doesn’t seem like a lot initially, over decades it may just add up to more of life’s most precious resource: time.