Why have a Meat Free Monday?
South Africa is joining the global move to encourage people to have one day a week free of meat. It’s a small move with a big impact on the environment, on animals and on health.
Eating less meat can help minimize the ecological footprint of your food because stock breeding has a detrimental impact on the environment.
A United Nations report states that emissions from livestock make up 18% of all greenhouse gas emissions. That is more than every form of transportation combined. Two of the gases they produce are methane and nitrous oxide. Methane is twenty times more powerful than carbon dioxide in terms of global warming potential, and 37% of the emissions from livestock are methane. Nitrous oxide comes from livestock manure, and these emissions are 65% of all nitrous oxide emitted in the world.
There are a host of additional issues regarding meat production, these include the vast amounts of water it takes to produce meat, deforestation to make pastures, overgrazing turning pastures into deserts, pesticides, antibiotics and hormones making their way into our drinking water, and waste from feed production that places nutrients into the water that promotes weeds taking over all forms of vegetation.
The increase in meat production over time would not have been possible without the development of commercial methods of farming, which have ignored the rights of animals who are deprived of exercise, fresh air and social interaction.
Compassion in World Farming have revealed that by introducing a meat free day in South Africa – 11 200 cattle, 2 million chickens, 10 000 pigs and 22 300 sheep will not face slaughter each week.
The campaign hopes to perpetuate a healthy message by raising awareness of the importance of limiting saturated fat in our diet, which nutritionists say contributes significantly to several diseases which have reached epidemic proportions.
Recent data from a Harvard University study found that replacing saturated fat-rich foods (eg. meat and full fat dairy) with foods that are rich in polyunsaturated fat (eg. vegetable oils, nuts and seeds) reduces the risk of heart disease by 19%1. Research suggests that a higher consumption of red and processed meat increases the risk of type 2 diabetes2. People on low-meat or vegetarian diets have significantly lower body weights and body mass indices3. A recent study from Imperial College London also found that reducing overall meat consumption can prevent long-term weight gain4. Red and processed meat consumption is associated with modest increases in total mortality, cancer mortality and cardiovascular disease mortality5. Consuming beans or peas results in higher intakes of fibre, protein, zinc, iron and magnesium and lower intakes of saturated fat and total fat6.
Most of us eat more meat and other protein rich foods than we need to stay healthy. In 2007 the World Cancer Research Fund report recommended limiting the consumption of red meats such as beef, pork ad lamb because of a ‘convincing’ link with colorectal cancer. Links have also been found between high meat diets and obesity and heart disease.
Remember also that climate change is a threat to our future health. As the world warms up it is likely that levels of air pollution, and thus allergies and respiratory diseases, will rise, as will the rate of infectious diseases
Public Health experts suggest that reducing our daily intake of meat by 60%, will help reduce excess weight and obesity and result in benefits to individuals and society.
It has been recognized that adding a time factor to a message helps people to change their behavior. In addition to memorable alliteration, Mondays are traditionally the “start healthy eating” day of the week.